The 90s were a great decade for high school cult classic films. I was actually in college by the time 10 Things I Hate About You came out, nevertheless, it immediately ranked up there with Clueless, Can’t Hardly Wait and Never Been Kissed as one of my top faves! In this modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Kat Stratford (played by Julia Stiles) writes a sonnet poem for Patrick Verona (played by the late Heath Ledger) listing all of the things she loves to hate about their bittersweet puppy love romance, which unfolds when he shows up at Padua High. Though I haven’t watched the movie in ages, the title got me to thinking about all of the things I love to hate about driving Uber! It’s incredibly easy to tell people about all the things I totally love (the autonomy, getting paid once a week, freedom to roam around the five boroughs and meet interesting people), but the last few months have given me the type of insight and firsthand knowledge that CERTAINLY makes a girl frustrated at times.
So, the next few Uberlicious posts will be a part of series I’ll call:
10 Things I Hate About U(ber)!
One of the most frustrating things about driving Uber in New York City has to be the daily traffic jams that keep Manhattan at a standstill. Granted, I can’t blame the traffic on Uber itself, but by measure of spending so many hours in my car while driving for Uber (on average, about 5 hours a day/ 5 days a week), A LOT of that time is spent sitting in traffic. You would think that the time of day would have a bearing on whether or not the roads were clear. But in my experience, on some streets it really doesn’t matter if it’s 11am or 4:45pm, you along with thousands of other cars, buses, taxis, delivery trucks, fire trucks, squad cars and ambulances will be moving at a snails pace in the city. This really impacts my ability to get clients from point A to point B in a timely manner, and also impacts how many clients I get per hour. Driving up Madison Avenue in midtown, forget about it! Trying to move beyond the entrance to the Midtown Tunnel on 1st or 2nd Avenue, don’t hold your breath! There’ve been times where it’s taken 45 minutes to go from the West Village to 59th and 5th Avenue. My passenger, who was trying to get to an event at Bergdorf Goodman, spent the majority of the event time in the backseat of my car. No matter what avenue we took north, the pace of traffic never let up.
Then there have been at least two different occasions where clients have ubered from Brooklyn around 3pm with intentions to go to Newark Airport. The first couple actually had the nerve to choose UberPool, which will automatically include another passenger along the route if they request at the same time and are going in a similar direction. Luckily, no one requested to join them, however, the traffic leaving Brooklyn, driving across the bridge into Manhattan, and over to the Holland Tunnel entrance was so thick, that we never made it into the tunnel. This was the Friday leading into Memorial Day weekend, and we sat about a quarter of mile outside of the tunnel entrance for close to an hour before I suggested that I uber them over to Penn Station so that they could take the New Jersey Transit into Newark. Otherwise, they were never going to make their international flight to Norway. Similarly, I picked up a guy in Brooklyn last weekend who was also going to Newark on a Friday. He’d never flown from EWR and thought he had plenty of time. With him, we eventually made it into the Holland Tunnel but it took more than 90 minutes with the number of cars traveling from Brooklyn to Manhattan to Jersey on a Friday afternoon. To this day, I’m not sure if any of them made their flights!
Not to mention a couple of weeks ago when I picked up a Texas businessman who had flown in for the day to attend a corporate dinner at Cipriani on 42nd Street. I met him in Astoria and estimated that we’d be across the Queensboro Bridge and down to 42nd in about a half hour. That would give him ten or fifteen minutes to spare before dinner. But, to the dismay of pretty much all the drivers on the road that day, President Obama was in town. And any time the President is in town, that means that there will be major road blocks, closures and even longer delays in traffic. He pretty much missed the majority of that dinner, but chose to laugh it off. (Thanks Obama!!!! LOL)
For a while there, I wondered to what degree Uber and other ride-hailing app services were contributing to all the congestion on the city’s roadways. I wasn’t the only person wondering as last summer Mayor de Blasio attempted to temporarily put a halt to the number of new For Hire Vehicle drivers (the Taxi and Limousine Commission designation for drivers of Uber and Lyft) so that the city could do a $2 million study on traffic and road conditions. But, as of the 2016 For Hire Vehicle Transportation Study, the argument that Uber was contributing to the city’s overall traffic congestion was “unfounded,” which is pretty surprising to tell the truth. I, for one, wouldn’t have purchased a car last year if I hadn’t planned on using it for Uber. But, hey… “Instead, the causes of congestion are ‘increased freight movement, construction activity, population growth,’ according to the study, which was conducted by McKinsey & Co. and a former NYC transportation official,” reports Business Insider.
Whatever the causes are, I’m more so interested in what the city intends to do to REMEDY all of this traffic. Placing traffic cops to direct flows of traffic has hardly proven to make matters better in my opinion. I’ve literally watched traffic lights change up to two times without cars moving because of gridlock and each time, the traffic cop was unable to actually help cars navigate out of the way. And, the longer I sit on the road, especially without a client in my car, the less money I’m making as an Uber driver. For now, my personal remedy is to stay out of Manhattan as often as I can. My real preference for ubering tends to be in the outer boroughs, Long Island and Jersey where I can pick up a passenger, drive on streets with normal flows of traffic, drop my clients off, and get on to my next fare!