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.

  • Vooch

    private car consumes 1,100 sqft of NYC roadway
    bicycle 97 sqft
    pedestrian 6 sqft

    chart attached https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/99fadaf88233f8563217c85434d85db514907833c4162a278c7106ccd748d1b4.png

  • c2check

    And don’t forget: The capacity of a single 10-foot lane (or equivalent width) by mode at peak conditions with normal operations.

    http://nacto.org/tsdg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9d8b0a02e3382e27d8dd92b657cc403460e8b67d25a20c6dafab5d19ec3059bf.jpg

  • Sri Napasaran


  • Andres Dee

    Uber and Lyft appear to be on a charm offensive the past few weeks, each trying their own way to advance their own long-term agenda – access to the urban for-hire market, minus the pesky regulations that today’s participants are subject to. Uber is promising that they’ll solve the L train crisis if we let them run “autonomous” (which does not necessarily mean “robot”). Lyft is promising to end private car ownership – in 10 years – if we give them the breaks they want…now, of course. A few months ago, I passionately defended Uber, being that (in NYC at least) they are regulated like any other car service. I saw them as just another way to order car service. An app instead of a phone call. Now, learning more about how they treat other cities where car service is regulated (like Austin) and what they’re trying to pull in NYC, I see them as less benign.

  • Sri Napasaran

    50,000 ride-sharing cars in NYC. And Uber wants more simply because it’s “more cars – more money for uber” This is anything but benign.

  • Vooch

    so the best way to manage a shortage of roadway capacity in NYC would be to post these signs ? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/956934b7b9c03749ff5c3109cd127c40ad6705024960cf39e34cbc766ef27052.jpg

  • Joe R.

    Just change the lettering as follows:

    24 HOURS
    MON thru SUN

  • Larry Littlefield

    Maybe not. But a host of cars driving into Manhattan for 18 months might very well solve the problem of auto commuters being willing to support better subway service for other people.

    Why don’t we propose opening up placard parking in Manhattan to all comers during the shutdown?

  • Vooch

    Bollards !

    everywhere across the roadway

  • snrvlakk

    Normally NOT a fan of anything from the Manhattan Institute, but this… Technology we don’t have yet!!!???? Let me play!

    Star Trek style transporters
    Time machine (so you can go back to when subways were running)
    Citishare Jetpacks. (Blue jetpack stations at every corner)
    Pneumatic tube attached to the Williamsburg Bridge
    Dolphins with saddles

  • ADN

    Cars are still going to be driving over the Williamsburg Bridge. Those cars should only be multi-passenger, shared vehicles. There is is clearly a place for companies like Uber and Lyft in this plan. Those companies can be part of the solution here. And they are a lot more nimble, creative and willing to try things than the MTA or DOT.

  • NYCBK123

    I vote for dolphins with saddles.

  • Michel S

    Some people just want to watch the world burn…

  • Miles Bader

    Uber and Lyft’s model fails once you get beyond a few passengers, and cars with only a few passengers are no better than private cars in terms of congestion, capacity, etc.

    So Uber and Lyft basically have nothing to offer.

  • Kevin Love

    Swan boats! Can a hundred amusement parks be wrong?

  • Kevin Love

    Let’s call it “Nero syndrome.”

  • qrt145

    It seems likely that cars will still be allowed on the bridge, but car pool restrictions could be put in place.

    For many people, Uber/Lyft’s ride pooling features are actually more efficient than the old-fashioned way of trying to figure out whom to carpool with, or the old-fashioned picking up of hitchhikers. Therefore, these companies could actually offer something.

    I only hope the authorities will finally realize that the driver of a taxi shouldn’t count for car-pooling purposes. I cringe whenever I see a taxi with one passenger on a “two person minimum” car pool lane. A taxi with one passenger is transporting one person. The driver is effectively part of the car.

  • Joe R.

    We should put car pool restrictions in place on every entry point into Manhattan for the duration of the tunnel repair. When people see the world didn’t end because of it, then we might have political support to make such a restriction permanent.

  • AMH

    The first step is to create dedicated bus lanes and HOV restrictions. Then we can talk about the best way to facilitate ride sharing (not ride hailing).

  • snrvlakk

    We all know how the “let it burn” crowd will be voting come November.

  • aarrrrrimapirate

    Ooooh me too!

    -Giant circus cannons and nets
    -worlds tallest longest and highest capacity roller coaster
    -worlds tallest longest and highest capacity WOODEN roller coaster
    -weird Chinese elevated bus
    -Magic Schoolbus

  • Jesse

    Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others.

  • qrt145

    Water-walking pony share!

  • RT

    Ye have little faith. The L train shutdown is more than two years away. That gives us plenty of time to:
    1) finish inventing robot automobiles
    2) build eight more Williamsburg Bridges to accommodate the extra 300,000 cars

    Ideally, those 8 new bridges would be made out of plastic, so that they could be scrapped and recycled 18 months later since they’ll no longer be needed once the L train is running again.

  • Miles Bader

    Sure. But shoot them out of circus cannons.

  • ahwr
  • Miles Bader

    Okay, dolphins with saddles, shot out of circus cannons, landing in water slides for a thrilling finish to your commute.

    I guess the water slide could discharge onto a giant trampoline.


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