The next time I make a list of reasons I love New York City, UBER will be at the top of the list. Activate the app—in as little as three minutes a late model, clean car with a courteous driver (who knows how to drive) appears at the door. And when you get to where you’re going, you just get out. No need to mess with money; the fare is automatically charged to your credit card. A little more expensive than a cab, a lot more than a bus or a subway, but well worth it in my opinion.
Our mayor, however, is not as enthusiastic as I am. He attempted to limit the number of cars in the fleet last summer, but the proposal was met with such fierce public opposition that the City Council refused to take it up. A subsequent $2 million study to determine whether the cars were the cause of increased traffic congestion showed that in fact, other factors were responsible. Face it, Mr. Mayor. Uber is here to stay. Part of the gig economy, the five-year old company with a global reach is the world’s most highly valued private company because it provides a service people want and need. On an average day, Uber takes New Yorkers on 100,000 trips.
GETTING AROUND WAS NOT ALWAYS SO EASY!
First there were the omnibuses that traveled a designated route, stopping to let people on and off. Then in 1832 came the horse cars, pulled by horses along smooth steel rails. They could carry more passengers than an omnibus and go faster, reaching speeds of five miles an hour! Next were the dramatically faster elevated trains that propelled passengers 30 feet above ground toward Harlem, spitting cinders all the way. And finally, in 1904, the first subway line,the Interborough Rapid Transit Line, opened. Today we have a complex subway system that serves around six million riders on any weekday. And of course, there are yellow cabs and buses, which are about as slow as their omnibus ancestors.
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
As for Uber, Travis Kalanik, the CEO, when questioned by a Wall Street Journal reporter recently, confirmed that Uber is aggressively researching the use of driverless cars. How soon would this become a reality? He wasn’t specific, but said only, “This technology is coming. So then the question for us is, does Uber want to be a part of the future or are we going to resist the future like maybe the taxi industry before us?”
As unlikely as it seems, I’m pretty sure it will happen because I can remember when the idea of everybody walking around with their own phones seemed just as ridiculous.