Mixed blessing: New Yorkers can get free cab rides from Uber this week
For your convenience, this article is available in both Manhattan and non-Manhattan versions. Please read the one appropriate to your New York living/visiting situation. Thank you.
Uber, as those 98 percent of Manhattanites with iPhones already know, is a service that makes summoning a town car as simple as using an app on your phone. Open the app, hit a button, boom. A car is on its way.
The last time we wrote about the company was to celebrate an interesting experiment, its one-day ice-cream delivery truck service. This week, it’s starting a service that goes one better (jk nothing’s better than free ice cream): on-demand taxis, promising faster, cheaper rides than its town cars — but still more than a normal cab ride.
Between today and next Wednesday, everyone in the city gets one free Uber taxi ride as the company unveils this new service. Don’t feel like taking the train? Having trouble getting a cab during the shift changeover? Just take out your phone.
As Will Oremus notes at Slate, there’s a practical reason for Uber’s generosity.
Just last night, the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission balked at approving the service, citing the city’s laws against pre-arranged cab rides. The rule is that taxi drivers can’t refuse a ride to [someone] who flags them down on the street just because they’re on their way to pick up someone else. …
Uber is confident that it can work with New York’s commission as well [as it has in other cities]. But in the meantime, rather than scrap the launch, the company has come up with an alternative: free taxi week! If it isn’t allowed to charge customers, Uber reasons, it can at least give them a taste of the service in hopes that will pressure city officials to find a way through the regulatory roadblocks.
So Manhattanites, if you can’t grab a cab within two minutes, for this week only Uber will provide one for free.
Here’s the company’s “reliable service area.”*
Hey, you know how you can never get a cab outside Manhattan? (You know, until the green outer-borough cabs launch which seems like it will never happen.) Yeah, well now the cabs that you can never get cost twice as much.
Cool app, guys. If you need us, we’ll be waiting for the C train.
* For reference, here’s a map of city income levels. We point to this for no particular reason.