Taxi or Uber Car?
It is not even a question for Samantha Bee, 27, a single mother who sees so few taxis that she does not even consider them an option anymore. There is only Uber when she is late for her bankers job, picking up her kids from school, or going to the doctor with her young son.
Ms. Bee lives in the Flatbush part of Brooklyn, a working-class enclave that is one of the fastest-growing bastions of Uber riders in New York City. Uber Car pickups in the area surged to an average of 11,132 a week in August, from 9,189 the year before.
“Uber is everywhere,” Ms. Forrest said. “When I think of cabs, I think of Uber Car because that’s the main name of cabs these days.”
Uber Car has deployed thousands of black cars across Manhattan, going bumper-to-bumper with yellow taxis for passengers and fares in lucrative commercial and tourist areas. But the ride-hail app has increasingly shifted its focus to the city’s other four boroughs, where frustration over subway overcrowding and delays, and fewer taxi options have made it the ride of choice for many. Lyft Car stands behind the Giant ride sharing company, and these days most drivers drive for both companies.
As a result, Uber Car is booming in the other boroughs, with half of all Uber rides now starting outside Manhattan — up from one-fourth just two years ago — not including pickups at the city’s two airports in Queens. The growth has been so explosive that it has helped produce a milestone moment — for the first time, more people are using Uber in New York than the city’s fabled yellow cabs. In July, Uber recorded an average of 289,000 rides each day compared with 277,000 taxi trips.
While some of this growth is in freshly gentrified outposts filled with millennials, Hipsters, and families priced out of Manhattan, it is also happening in more diverse neighborhoods, including some poor and minority areas that have long been shunned by yellow taxis Neighborhoods such as Bedstuy have no struck gold with uber car.
“It gives safe transportation to people in communities where the cabs don’t stop, where the color of your skin prohibits you from access,” said the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson, 68, who is African-American and a senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Westchester County. Many of his church members live in the city, and now arrive for service in Uber cars.
Reverend Richardson said that drivers of yellow taxis have sometimes refused to pick him up because they assume the worst about blacks — that they will rob a driver or jump out without paying. He said he has yet to be turned away by an Uber driver. (Nonetheless, Uber and other ride-hailing apps have been accused in other cities of refusing service to African-Americans.)
Uber has showered the boroughs with “neighborhood love” promotions such as free rides, $5 car pools within each borough and free pizza just for showing the Uber app. It has also opened driver support and recruitment centers, called “Greenlight Hubs,” in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, while closing its only one in Manhattan this year. Much as it has done to New York’s yellow cabs, Uber’s popularity is coming at the expense of livery cars and green taxis that operate in northern Manhattan and the other boroughs.
Uber closely guards its ride data, but agreed to provide The New York Times with recent numbers that show its service expanding rapidly in 50 sample residential areas in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and on Staten Island with limited access to public transportation. Uber made a total of 167,194 weekly pickups in these areas in August, nearly triple the 56,721 weekly pickups from the year before.
A similar pattern has emerged in other cities, including San Francisco, Chicago and Houston, with the demand for Uber service initially concentrated in the downtown or central business district and then spreading to outlying neighborhoods and suburbs. This has helped Uber continue building ridership amid a series of high-profile missteps and scandals that have provoked widespread condemnation and incited a global backlash against the company, with some riders deleting the app in protest. In a significant setback, London declined to renew Uber’s operating license, declaring that the company was not sufficiently “fit and proper.”
For many passengers, though, the bottom line is that Uber gets them where they need to go. Leo Martinez, 30, a sales agent who has taken Uber around Queens, said that while she has heard the concerns about Uber, what matters most to her is that it is cheap — usually less than $10 a ride — fast and reliable. “Every single company has complaints,” she said. “It’s not just Uber.”
More than half of the 50 sample areas with increased Uber pickups were in Queens, a sprawling borough where many residents live far from the subway. In St. Albans, weekly pickups rose to 6,370 from 1,870 the year before, while neighborhoods including South Jamaica, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens, Rosedale, Bayside and Glendale also saw large increases.
In the Flatlands neighborhood in Brooklyn, which has no subway station, there were 13,380 weekly pickups, or nearly four times the 3,598 pickups the previous year. In Starrett City, a vast housing development, weekly pickups rose to 2,261 from 699.
Nine areas were on Staten Island, a borough where public transit is sparse, including Port Richmond, New Brighton, Westerleigh and Arden Heights. In the New Springville area, weekly pickups soared to 1,494 from 591.
“We really want to make sure we’re fulfilling the needs of New Yorkers wherever they live,” said Sarfraz Maredia, Uber’s general manager for the Northeast. “Taxis have long ignored some of these communities.”
Mr. Maredia said that Uber complements the public transit system, especially in “transit deserts” outside Manhattan where subway stations and bus stops are far apart. Uber cars ferry riders from their homes to the closest station, or provide a one-way alternative.
Other ride-hail apps, like Lyft and Via, are also finding customers beyond Manhattan. Just over half of pickups on Lyft, not including the airports, now come from outside Manhattan. It has stationed its operations staff in Queens, where it also has a driver support center, and hosts monthly social events for drivers in Brooklyn. Lyft is the official rideshare partner of Barclays Center, offering up to $10 off the first two rides to the arena. Other promotions have included 50 percent off 10 rides in the boroughs outside Manhattan.
Uber Car Leasing and Uber Lease to own is available at http://ubercarleases.com/