It is the Uber-mensch!
A controversial upstart internet taxi company is using the current round of L train closures to promote its new car-pooling service, offering would-be straphangers stranded in Williamsburg rides for $2.75 — the price of a MetroCard swipe — while the trains are out of commission for the next two weekends.
And apparently, local pols are happy to hop on board with a company that has recently come under fire for its aggressive business tactics and safety practices.
“I am glad we have a partner in helping our residents move,” said Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Williamsburg), who appeared at a press conference with Uber management on Friday afternoon.
Uber will offer the fare to people who want to be picked up in Williamsburg — from the East River waterfront to the west, Queens to the east, and Flushing Avenue to the south — and dropped off anywhere close to an L train stop in Brooklyn or Manhattan.
The company said it created the subway-themed special as a way of publicizing its new UberPool service, where riders are paired with strangers going to the same destination, allowing them to split the costs. Riders in Williamsburg who select the UberPool option in the company’s app will be able to get the $2.75 rate regardless of whether they end up sharing a car or not, and will not be subject to so-called surge pricing — when the company’s fares famously skyrocket during times of high demand — said Uber general manager Josh Mohrer.
Uber had already been offering a similar promotion for $5 since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority first started halting L train service between Lorimer Street and Manhattan for maintenance work on April 18. The $2.75 rides will start today and last two weekends until subway service returns to normal in 10 days.
Critics of Uber have attacked the car service in the past for not thoroughly screening its drivers and using ruthless tactics to edge out its competitors. The company also came under heavy scrutiny last year when Buzzfeed reported that its senior vice president for business told guests at a private party that he planned to dig up dirt on journalists who had been critical of Uber. But Reynoso said he supports the company despite the controversy.
“My primary function is to take care of the needs of my constituents and this is a shot in the arm from a company that wants to do right,” said Reynoso. “I do not shy away from innovation.”
Uber is not the first business to use the L train closure as a marketing opportunity — three local boutiques have also been offering $2.75 discounts throughout the service suspension.