Lyft Says Cars Are the Cozy Way Around Town

The supposedly anti-car company Lyft seems to be very pro-automobile in this new subway ad. Photo: David Meyer
The supposedly anti-car company Lyft seems to be very pro-automobile in this new subway ad. Photo: David Meyer

The weather is turning a little cooler, so why not put on a sweater — or a car?

That’s the message being sent by Lyft, the supposedly anti-auto transportation company, with a new subway ad designed, it seems, to piss of pedestrians, cyclists and especially long-suffering transit riders.

“They say to dress in layers,” the ad reads. “It’s okay if one of those layers is a car.”

First of all, it’s not ok. Cars are responsible for a disproportionate share of greenhouse gases, most of the congestion and virtually all of the deaths on American roadways.

Second of all, the “be comfortable this winter by wearing a car” message is counter to Lyft’s frequent rebranding effort designed to convince the public it intends to play a role in reducing private car ownership in American cities — a novel twist on Vision Zero that still leaves plenty of cars on the road, but with companies like Lyft operating them.

Nonetheless, company co-founder Zimmer famously predicted two years ago that cities would be car free (except for cabs like Lyft!) by 2025.

“By 2025, owning a car will go the way of the DVD,” Zimmer posted on Medium under the headline, “The Third Transportation Revolution.”

Well, that revolution will not be teleported. So until the day when automated vehicles eliminate the instinct towards wasteful private ownership of cars, there’s always Lyft’s fuel-burning, road-clogging, bike-lane-blocking service, the ad is saying. Indeed, instead of appealing to New York subway riders to give up the vehicles they’re not using anyway, Lyft is sticking with the car-culture status quo.

We reached out to Lyft and its ad firm Wieden Kennedy, but did not get an immediate response.

  • JarekFA

    I really don’t understand this. When I work late, my employer provides a free car home. I usually choose to bike home the 5.5 miles instead of taking a car through the traffic clogged Brooklyn Battery. When I take a car, after sitting at at desk for nearly 9-12 hours mostly straight, I’m just sitting some more. The car crawls the short distance I need to go in FiDi to access the tunnel, crawls in the tunnel and is generally an unpleasant ride. I can’t read my phone without getting sick. And (given that the bike ride is 27 mins door-to-door at night) I usually don’t end up saving much time via the car.

    I just find riding in a car (let alone driving one, my god) to be an unpleasant experience. If you’re in Manhattan on an avenue your driver is going to be aggressively accelerating and braking along with lane changing. If you’re going cross-town, you’re going to have to wait multiple light cycles just to go one block.

  • Joe R.

    Traveling by car in the city invariably makes me sick. Like you, I can’t read anything while I’m in a car without getting ill. The constant speed changes, bumps, smell of auto exhaust mixed with outgassing plastics in car interiors, all combine to make me nauseous within 10 or 15 minutes. People who have offered me rides home from Manhattan are surprised when I tell them I would just rather take the subway. Besides not getting sick, I’ll probably get there just as fast, if not faster.

  • Elizabeth F

    NYC will still be crammed with cars, even if every NYC resident doesn’t own or ever use one. Because there are a LARGE number of suburban residents who would love to drive in, if only they can park. Thus, every (free) parking space in Manhattan will ALWAYS be filled.

    As long as suburban New Yorkers have cars — and Lyft isn’t going to change that — then NYC will be clogged with them.

  • Simon Phearson

    Every time I take a car or hail a cab instead of biking/transit out of or into Manhattan, I regret it. Not too long ago I fucking Ubered out of midtown to the airport and I should have just taken the subway a stop or two into Queens and hailed a greencab. Driver took forever to get to me, took forever to get out.

    I find that I just enjoy the subway better than riding in a car. Never mind biking (which I prefer to all other modes). Like, after getting out of an evening concert, I’d rather spend time quietly observing the other people I share this city with on the subway than sitting in traffic flicking through my phone for the umpteenth time.

  • Tooscrapps

    Wouldn’t it be great if your employer gave you half the cost of that car to take transit or bike? How many people might jump at this? Win-win!

  • JK

    The bottom line for Lyft (and Uber) is getting people to take car trips using their platform. Neither company will ever make money from escooters/ ebikes, it’s a distraction. When do these companies say that driving (as measured by Vehicle Miles Travel) is going to decrease where they operate? What’s going to cause that decrease in driving? Them driving more?

  • JarekFA

    I somewhat frequently see deliveries being made via cargo bike (like this guy delivering baked goods across the Brooklyn Bridge). Like — imagine if the city incentivized that instead! Like yesterday, my employer sponsored a “coffee break” in the conference room with Georgetown Cupcakes, and was scheduled for 3:00pm. It was delayed to 4:00pm because the vehicle making the delivery was stuck in traffic. I work in Fidi and the Cupcake shop is in SoHo. That’s less than 15 minutes by bike. I can’t even fathom the time it’d take via van. (google maps says 11 mins by bike and 17 mins via car in heavy traffic — and then it’d have to find space to unload).

  • kevd

    I’ll take a lyft home some nights after 10 or 11pm.
    Some nights I’ll ride instead. Depends on my mood, the weather etc.
    Its basically the only time I take cars (occassionally out of town or to/from an airport)
    Most of the time I haven’t found the BB Tunnel to be traffic choked late at night on a weekday. And the BQE congestion is ofter north (or is it “east”) or where the tunnel hit, and I’m going south (or is it “west”) toward the Prospect.
    Driving in the city for me is stressful.
    But riding in a car, on relatively free flowing traffic late at night is (like riding) a time I can decompress after a stressful, long day.
    That said, I’ve done it 3 times in 2018.

  • Isaac B

    Companies that make cars want to sell cars. Companies that provide rides want you riding with them. Both of these companies want an environment that’s conducive to driving and storing cars. Which cities are not. Which is why for most of the last 75 years, most societal forces were geared toward stigmatizing public transit and urban life and getting people into cars and places that support a car economy.

    When I read “tales of woe” about how “the subway is falling apart”, alarm bells go off. This is the same marketing formula that fueled the “subway to car, city to suburb” pipeline in the 50s through the 90s. I was there in the 70s and 80s and the subways today on their worst day are superior to what they were then.

    A few years back, the makers of a then-revolutionary personal electric transportation device (rhymes with “kegway”) got all chummy with bike advocates, telling them how their product will be a substitute for cars. (Of course, they wanted access to bike lanes.) Yet when you went to their web site, the product was touted as a substitute for walking.

  • clarknt67

    Working in Midtown an living in Brooklyn I very often just took the subway home even when I was eligible for an employer-paid car. Why? Because it was faster than getting caught in traffic on the FDR or the Brooklyn Bridge. I find the train more relaxing too.



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