Let’s Get Real: Cars Are Not the Answer to the L Shutdown

Today the Daily News published an op-ed from autonomous car consultants Levi Tillemann and Colin McCormick, who proposed that NYC rush to establish an elaborate — and subsidized — driverless taxi system to help move people when the L train tube under the East River shuts down for Sandy-related repairs.

Seriously! Here it is:

Vehicles would pick up and drop off riders in designated neighborhoods in Brooklyn and take them to and from mass transit hubs in Manhattan. Autonomous taxis would also be used for transportation within the borough.

This is so bizarre it’s hard to take seriously. “The whole thing is incoherent,” tweeted Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute. “We have a problem now, so we should use a nonexistent technology to fix it.”

Today’s op-ed comes a few weeks after Uber floated a proposal to suspend taxi regulations so anyone with an empty seat in his or her car could play cab driver. “With enough participation, we could significantly reduce the 11,000 vehicles traveling over Williamsburg bridge and carve out space for BRT,” said Uber manager Josh Mohrer.

The priorities are all wrong there — the key is to carve out space for buses no matter what. “Uber may be a lobbying whiz,” responded analyst Charles Komanoff in Newsweek, “but its proposal marks it as a transportation amateur.”

Given the scarcity of street space and the volume of people who will be affected when the L is taken out of service — hundreds of thousands of commuters take the L every day — cars are simply not a serious option as a substitute. That’s why the MTA and DOT are looking at buses and bikes to handle the load.

We already have a tried-and-tested system for moving large numbers of people between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and it doesn’t involve cars. Allocating street space for more buses, biking, and walking is the solution that’s staring us in the face. It’s also the only one that makes sense.

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