Uber can help make London's congestion a thing of the past – if sensible regulation allows innovation

 
Jo Bertram
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The average black cab emits twice as much CO2 as a Toyota Prius. (Source: Getty)
Every morning, 1m people brave London’s roads at rush hour and drive to work. And 94 per cent of them drive alone.
This might be preferable to squeezing onto public transport, but the strain on London’s roads will only worsen as our economy grows. We need change.
Yet there is an alternative to a city that looks like a car park, and crawls along like a traffic jam.
The answer is partly about better public transportation, with big infrastructure projects like Crossrail.
But these kinds of investments are expensive and not everyone can live near a bus or a train station. In fact, it is often the poorest neighbourhoods where Londoners are left stranded without access to reliable, affordable transport.
That is where companies like Uber come in, because with new technology we can help to cut congestion and make the most of today’s infrastructure.
People are less likely to drive their own car if they can push a button and jump in an Uber in under five minutes. And Uber vehicles can serve hundreds of people per day, rather than just one solitary commuter.
Plus: if the train, underground or bus does not go all the way home, Uber can cover the last few miles. One in five Uber trips starts or finishes within 50 metres of an underground stop.
We are well-established now. But this is just the beginning. During July’s Tube strikes, 15 per cent of all Uber trips started and finished within the same five minute time frame – and within 500 metres of each other.
In other words, these journeys could have easily been shared. Take cities such as San Francisco and New York. So many people now use Uber in these cities that there are lots of passengers wanting to get to the exact same place, at the exact same time.
With “UberPOOL”, they can share a car, so the driver picks up one person, then another, then drops one of them off, then picks up another. This has the potential to reduce congestion. It is also much cheaper for passengers.
Of course, new technology can be disruptive: not just for established industries, but for the people who work in them and their families. Uber is no different. Part of the solution is helping more people to make the switch.
For example, several hundred cabbies already use our technology to boost their income. But the current prescriptive rules governing black cabs are holding things back.
For example, cabbies have to buy expensive vehicles: pushing up fares and guzzling more fuel, thereby contributing to London’s poor air quality.
The average black cab emits twice as much CO2 as a Toyota Prius.
And while The Knowledge is rightly famous as an extraordinary test of human memory, GPS could help to cut the time commitment that is needed.
Helping to reduce the burden on our cabbies is an important part of ensuring that London’s iconic black cabs do not go the way of the red phone box.
Today, there are more than 15,000 Londoners who choose to drive through the Uber platform.
Every day, hundreds more people from all parts of our city are queuing to sign up. That is because they value the flexibility that Uber offers to make a decent living.
Over a quarter of the Londoners who drive using Uber now come from constituencies with over 10 per cent unemployment. And the demand for their services is growing.
More than 1m Londoners now use our app regularly to travel about, with 30,000 more signing up each week.
We need common sense regulations that put passengers first, while allowing everyone to innovate.
Whether you prefer to hail a black cab on the street, or you like to push a button and get a ride from the comfort of your local pub, Londoners deserve choice. (Closing time is Uber’s “rush hour”, by the way!)
And, in the process we can cut congestion, and help to create more jobs for London.

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