Uber Customers and Drivers Polluting the air in NYC

uber-logoIs Uber replacing public transit rides in New York City and contributing to more traffic and pollution? Are Uber users, in demanding cheap rides instead of taking the subway, actually contributing to global warming? I suppose it depends on how you look at it. New York City is a very dense metropolitan area and every time you enter the city from New Jersey or the other boroughs, you can actually smell the pollution. And it seems to be getting worse, not better.

Perhaps the population in New York is growing and more users need to use transportation. Instead of buying new cars, they are turning to Uber. On the one hand, if you were to buy a new car, it would probably be more damaging to the environment than that Uber car that transports hundreds of passengers.  But let’s be real – why would you want to be stuck in traffic for hours and pay exorbitant parking fees? If you are a New Yorker, you prefer the subways or taxis.

So, why aren’t people using more clean-air buses and subways instead? Why are Uber cars more popular than public transportation nowadays?

Public transportation in the city is great. The subway system is efficient, it runs frequently and is available everywhere. However, lately even public transportation seems too congested. But instead of better and improved public transportation services, we are seeing the rise of private for-hire services like Uber. Thus, the rising demand for transportation is being swept up by Uber’s cheap and convenient services instead of better quality, and more environmentally friendly public transportation. This just adds more cars on the road, further contributes to falling air quality, and distracts us from global warming goals.

We’ve heard many times that the city has been trying to address the city’s pollution problem and have even seen the statistics that the city is much more environmentally friendly than other large metropolitan areas in the country.  Recently, the New York City government proposed a freeze on growth of for-hire vehicle companies like Uber to limit pollution and congestion in the city. There were already too many cars polluting the city, did we really need more? But this initiative didn’t get anywhere. Instead, the city says that it will conduct a study on congestion and pollution to assess the actual impact of added vehicles – with Uber’s cooperation. So it seems that Uber struck a deal to continue its operations and unrestricted growth within the city’s transportation fleet.

So if Uber doesn’t plan to reduce cars in the city to alleviate pollution, perhaps it could do something to increase the number of hybrid vehicles among its car fleet. Although not a complete solution to global warming, perhaps the vividness of the pollution would be less obvious and I wouldn’t feel like my lungs fill with car smoke every time I enter the city.  But that, of course, is a too far-fetched goal for Uber and seems to be an obstacle for the millions of dollars to be made with its current business model.