Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/lyft 2017-10-23T11:25:51+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com What To Do When The L Train Closes 2016-02-01T01:04:28+00:00 2016-02-01T01:04:28+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6129:what-to-do-when-the-l-train Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24560963766_a421b18d43_z.jpg" alt="mta out of service" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Out of service (photo: MTA/Patrick Cashin)</p> <hr /> <p>The denizens of Williamsburg and Bushwick have responded to news of potential multiyear L train closures with a mix of shock, despair, and irritation. People are talking through the alternatives: taking the G, J, and M trains; boarding the East River Ferry; or even (gasp!) riding the bus. Quite likely Williamsburgers will also summon a swarm of UberPools and Lyft Lines unlike any seen in our time.</p> <p dir="ltr">Hysterics aside, it’s unlikely that the MTA would do a full, year-long double-tube shutdown. The most plausible plan is a long series of “nights and weekends” shutdowns for tube repairs, with the possibility of a brief total closure of both tubes to finish them “Fastrak”-style while rehabs of the 1st Avenue and Bedford stations and additional electrical substations are built. The latter service upgrades, which would permanently boost the line’s peak-hour capacity by 10 percent (a big deal for a subway line often at “crush” capacity during rush hour), depend on the timely success of <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/01/8587710/schumer-asks-feds-prioritize-l-train" target="_blank">Senator Chuck Schumer’s request to expedite federal funding</a>. Nothing is certain until the upgrade funding comes through, but some Sandy-related stretch of nights-and-weekends closures is sure to come, as the MTA’s initial bid requests describe a contract lasting <a href="http://www.subchat.com/read.asp?Id=1331886" target="_blank">about 40 months</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">If the MTA does indeed briefly close both tunnels—or even just one at a time—what should be done to limit the carnage? First, carpool restrictions (HOV-2, or even HOV-3) on the Williamsburg Bridge during train closures—just like during transit strikes and natural disasters. Previous nights-and-weekends closures of the L have brought “Carmageddon” to the bridge, especially during UberPool and Lyft Line promotions. Ensuring that solo drivers don’t hog every lane is a surefire way to keep everyone moving.</p> <p dir="ltr">I personally remember the bridge congestion during the UberPool $2.75-a-ride L train closure special, as it was both the first time I shared an UberPool and the first time I rode with a carsick middle-aged woman being ill out the back window into the East River.</p> <p dir="ltr">So to minimize the stop-and-go, nausea-inducing congestion—and maximize the potential efficiency of ridesharing services—the city should cooperate with the MTA in implementing HOV restrictions on the bridge, and even dedicating a lane to shuttle buses and the B39. It’s not at all radical to take away a car lane for more efficient transportation modes: The Williamsburg Bridge was <a href="http://www.columbia.edu/~brennan/abandoned/WillB.extphoto.gif" target="_blank">built for streetcars</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">This potential L train crisis is a reminder that better transit redundancy plans are needed for high-volume chokepoints, even if they inconvenience a comparatively small number of drivers. A truly radical long-term proposal would involve permanently replacing some car lanes with transit-only lanes and re-opening the abandoned streetcar terminal under Essex Street on the Manhattan side of the bridge. Current proposals include replacing the terminal with an <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#photo-1" target="_blank">odd subterranean mushroom park</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">But if the real estate industry ever gets serious about funding <a href="http://gothamist.com/2015/07/31/is_it_maybe_possibly_actually_time.php" target="_blank">a public-private waterfront streetcar</a> through Williamsburg, perhaps restoring the rail lanes to the old streetcar terminal could be added to the plan. No matter what the MTA decides, the coming L train closures are an opportunity to start getting creative with our transportation systems and our waterfront. Let’s hope at least some of these mitigation proposals get a serious hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Alex Armlovich is a policy analyst at <a href="https://www.manhattan-institute.org/" target="_blank">the Manhattan Institute</a>. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/aarmlovi">@aarmlovi</a>.</p> <p>

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<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24560963766_a421b18d43_z.jpg" alt="mta out of service" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Out of service (photo: MTA/Patrick Cashin)</p> <hr /> <p>The denizens of Williamsburg and Bushwick have responded to news of potential multiyear L train closures with a mix of shock, despair, and irritation. People are talking through the alternatives: taking the G, J, and M trains; boarding the East River Ferry; or even (gasp!) riding the bus. Quite likely Williamsburgers will also summon a swarm of UberPools and Lyft Lines unlike any seen in our time.</p> <p dir="ltr">Hysterics aside, it’s unlikely that the MTA would do a full, year-long double-tube shutdown. The most plausible plan is a long series of “nights and weekends” shutdowns for tube repairs, with the possibility of a brief total closure of both tubes to finish them “Fastrak”-style while rehabs of the 1st Avenue and Bedford stations and additional electrical substations are built. The latter service upgrades, which would permanently boost the line’s peak-hour capacity by 10 percent (a big deal for a subway line often at “crush” capacity during rush hour), depend on the timely success of <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/01/8587710/schumer-asks-feds-prioritize-l-train" target="_blank">Senator Chuck Schumer’s request to expedite federal funding</a>. Nothing is certain until the upgrade funding comes through, but some Sandy-related stretch of nights-and-weekends closures is sure to come, as the MTA’s initial bid requests describe a contract lasting <a href="http://www.subchat.com/read.asp?Id=1331886" target="_blank">about 40 months</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">If the MTA does indeed briefly close both tunnels—or even just one at a time—what should be done to limit the carnage? First, carpool restrictions (HOV-2, or even HOV-3) on the Williamsburg Bridge during train closures—just like during transit strikes and natural disasters. Previous nights-and-weekends closures of the L have brought “Carmageddon” to the bridge, especially during UberPool and Lyft Line promotions. Ensuring that solo drivers don’t hog every lane is a surefire way to keep everyone moving.</p> <p dir="ltr">I personally remember the bridge congestion during the UberPool $2.75-a-ride L train closure special, as it was both the first time I shared an UberPool and the first time I rode with a carsick middle-aged woman being ill out the back window into the East River.</p> <p dir="ltr">So to minimize the stop-and-go, nausea-inducing congestion—and maximize the potential efficiency of ridesharing services—the city should cooperate with the MTA in implementing HOV restrictions on the bridge, and even dedicating a lane to shuttle buses and the B39. It’s not at all radical to take away a car lane for more efficient transportation modes: The Williamsburg Bridge was <a href="http://www.columbia.edu/~brennan/abandoned/WillB.extphoto.gif" target="_blank">built for streetcars</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">This potential L train crisis is a reminder that better transit redundancy plans are needed for high-volume chokepoints, even if they inconvenience a comparatively small number of drivers. A truly radical long-term proposal would involve permanently replacing some car lanes with transit-only lanes and re-opening the abandoned streetcar terminal under Essex Street on the Manhattan side of the bridge. Current proposals include replacing the terminal with an <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#photo-1" target="_blank">odd subterranean mushroom park</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">But if the real estate industry ever gets serious about funding <a href="http://gothamist.com/2015/07/31/is_it_maybe_possibly_actually_time.php" target="_blank">a public-private waterfront streetcar</a> through Williamsburg, perhaps restoring the rail lanes to the old streetcar terminal could be added to the plan. No matter what the MTA decides, the coming L train closures are an opportunity to start getting creative with our transportation systems and our waterfront. Let’s hope at least some of these mitigation proposals get a serious hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Alex Armlovich is a policy analyst at <a href="https://www.manhattan-institute.org/" target="_blank">the Manhattan Institute</a>. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/aarmlovi">@aarmlovi</a>.</p> <p>

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City Council Developing New Protections for Workers in ‘Gig’ Economy 2015-11-04T23:08:43+00:00 2015-11-04T23:08:43+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5971:city-council-developing-new-protections-for-workers-in-gig-economy Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/lander_car_wash_workers.jpg" alt="lander car wash workers" width="600" height="429" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Council Member Lander with carwash workers (<a href="https://twitter.com/willalatriste/status/573135755742203904" target="_blank">photo</a>: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There are more than 1.3 million freelancers working in New York City and with the help of the City Council, these workers may soon be afforded certain protections on par with full-time workers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Initially focused on wage protection and health benefits, Council members and advocates are also looking at legislation to expand collective bargaining rights to certain groups of workers in the “gig” economy.</p> <p dir="ltr">The on-demand economy of such workers has mushroomed in the city with Uber and Lyft drivers, Handy.com cleaners, and the more traditional writers, graphic designers, and other artists. These temporary, “for-hire” workers largely perform their various efforts without the benefits of job security, health insurance, pension buy-in, or paid sick leave. Even their wages are regularly not guaranteed. Eight out of ten freelancers have complained of being victims of late payment or non-payment of wages according to <a href="https://fu-web-storage-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/pdf/nonpayment-factsheet.pdf" target="_blank">reports</a> compiled by the Freelancers Union.</p> <p dir="ltr">With the City Council aggressively tackling workforce issues, Council Member Brad Lander, a Democrat who represents part of Brooklyn, has taken the lead in developing legislation to help people in the gig economy.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander is working with the New York City-based Freelancers Union to create a legislative framework for wage protection for freelance employees. In September, He appeared at a Brooklyn town hall hosted by the Freelancers Union to launch the #FreelanceIsntFree <a href="https://www.freelancersunion.org/advocacy/" target="_blank">campaign</a>, seeking to raise awareness and push for legislation.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It has very real dark sides to it,” Lander said in a recent phone interview with Gotham Gazette, referring to freelancing and the company payment cycles that cause hardships for freelancers. “The rent is due and you still gotta put groceries on the table,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander believes that the best possible scenario would be a “cutting edge,” enforceable administrative solution, similar to protections guaranteed by the state Department of Labor and the Attorney General. Currently, the only legal recourse freelancers have is civil court, an expensive and time-consuming option. Lander wants to introduce a bill within the next two months.</p> <p dir="ltr">But worker protections go beyond simply wages and Lander has found support from his colleagues for other ideas. Lander and Council Member Corey Johnson are working closely with the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance on a <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/how-to-build-the-movement-for-progressive-power-the-urban-way/" target="_blank">“drivers benefit fund”</a> that would use a small fare surcharge to provide health benefits to for-hire drivers. After wage protections for freelancers, drafting this legislation is Lander’s next priority; and with the city looking at rules reform for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, he said this “is a good time to move it forward.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Inevitably, workforce issues revolve in some important way around organized labor. On-demand gig workers are by their very nature unorganized. That’s where the Freelancers Union stepped in and now the City Council is moving toward creating new worker protections.</p> <p dir="ltr">Eyeing Seattle, where a City Council member is <a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattle-lawmaker-plans-to-help-for-hire-drivers-unionize/" target="_blank">pushing a bill</a> to allow taxi drivers, for-hire drivers, and those from ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to unionize and exercise collective bargaining, Lander is considering a similar path in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">Uber’s success in the city, and its disruption of the long-standing taxi/black car marketplace, has garnered the for-hire industry new attention. The ability for drivers, who are seen as independent contractors, to unionize would change the game for thousands, and the company, of course.</p> <p dir="ltr">Uber has added more than 20,000 cars to their service in the last three years and also <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-logs-major-gains-in-new-york-city-figures-show-1445821132" target="_blank">handled</a> more than 100,000 rides each day in July, four times its record from last year. &nbsp;During a summer face-off between city lawmakers and Uber, the Mayor de Blasio and the City Council brought about a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/23/nyregion/de-blasio-administration-dropping-plan-for-uber-cap-for-now.html" target="_blank">temporary detente</a> by landing on a four-month study of the effects of ride-sharing companies like Uber (and no cap on the growth of the industry). The results of that study are due soon and will likely play an important role in the future of ride-sharing in the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">An Uber representative declined to comment for this story.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city’s efforts to create space for independent contractors to unionize may run up against federal law. The <a href="https://www.nlrb.gov/resources/national-labor-relations-act" target="_blank">National Labor Relations Act of 1935</a> protects the right of employees to collectively bargain with their employers. It lays down specific definitions for employees and employers which could preempt local jurisdictions from taking action since independent contractors do not qualify under the law’s criteria.</p> <p dir="ltr">A <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-appeals-class-action-ruling-for-drivers-suit-1442362190" target="_blank">class-action lawsuit</a> brought by three drivers in California against Uber highlights this basic issue. The drivers are arguing for benefits as employees of the company while Uber maintains they are independent contractors who are not eligible for these benefits, and therefore should not <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/09/02/436820824/california-court-grants-uber-drivers-class-action-status" target="_blank">have received</a> class-action status.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">“Seattle’s leading the way,” said Council Member Lander. The proposed legislation in Seattle would create a precedent and likely face numerous legal challenges. Lander recognizes this fact. Even though the NLRA preempts the City Council from legislating, he believes there is room for cities to take action for workers not covered under the federal legislation. Currently there is no draft legislation but Lander said any proposal would attempt to protect workers across the on-demand economy and not just specific companies.</p> <p dir="ltr">(He also talked of changes to the city’s human rights laws to clarify the workers covered. He said this could happen in the next few months after these initial bills.)</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council recently took controversial action to help car wash workers unionize, but that is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/19/nyregion/carwash-owners-in-new-york-sue-city-over-unionization-rules.html?_r=0" target="_blank">being challenged in court</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member I. Daneek Miller is firmly in support of any proposal that would help on-demand drivers organize. As a former labor union leader, Miller’s perspective on the issue is decidedly pro-labor, and his position as chair of the Council's civil service and labor committee puts him at the front lines in addressing it.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">“The whole concept of the shared economy has to be put into perspective,” Miller told Gotham Gazette. “I don’t think it’s a sustainable model.”</p> <p dir="ltr">He said the “irony” of the situation is that the shared, gig economy is contributing to its own demise and disempowerment -- a younger generation with few responsibilities finds flexibility and mobility attractive and then later on when people want security, they find themselves left out in the cold.</p> <p dir="ltr">For the system to work, he said, there need to be checks and balances in the form of collective bargaining and the right to organize.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m less inclined to create public policy legislation around this,” he said about the issue of unionization, perhaps recognizing the challenges involved. “We’ll let them do their job and give them the tools to support them. We’ve got our finger on the pulse of organized labor.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Samark Khurshid<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/lander_car_wash_workers.jpg" alt="lander car wash workers" width="600" height="429" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Council Member Lander with carwash workers (<a href="https://twitter.com/willalatriste/status/573135755742203904" target="_blank">photo</a>: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There are more than 1.3 million freelancers working in New York City and with the help of the City Council, these workers may soon be afforded certain protections on par with full-time workers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Initially focused on wage protection and health benefits, Council members and advocates are also looking at legislation to expand collective bargaining rights to certain groups of workers in the “gig” economy.</p> <p dir="ltr">The on-demand economy of such workers has mushroomed in the city with Uber and Lyft drivers, Handy.com cleaners, and the more traditional writers, graphic designers, and other artists. These temporary, “for-hire” workers largely perform their various efforts without the benefits of job security, health insurance, pension buy-in, or paid sick leave. Even their wages are regularly not guaranteed. Eight out of ten freelancers have complained of being victims of late payment or non-payment of wages according to <a href="https://fu-web-storage-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/pdf/nonpayment-factsheet.pdf" target="_blank">reports</a> compiled by the Freelancers Union.</p> <p dir="ltr">With the City Council aggressively tackling workforce issues, Council Member Brad Lander, a Democrat who represents part of Brooklyn, has taken the lead in developing legislation to help people in the gig economy.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander is working with the New York City-based Freelancers Union to create a legislative framework for wage protection for freelance employees. In September, He appeared at a Brooklyn town hall hosted by the Freelancers Union to launch the #FreelanceIsntFree <a href="https://www.freelancersunion.org/advocacy/" target="_blank">campaign</a>, seeking to raise awareness and push for legislation.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It has very real dark sides to it,” Lander said in a recent phone interview with Gotham Gazette, referring to freelancing and the company payment cycles that cause hardships for freelancers. “The rent is due and you still gotta put groceries on the table,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander believes that the best possible scenario would be a “cutting edge,” enforceable administrative solution, similar to protections guaranteed by the state Department of Labor and the Attorney General. Currently, the only legal recourse freelancers have is civil court, an expensive and time-consuming option. Lander wants to introduce a bill within the next two months.</p> <p dir="ltr">But worker protections go beyond simply wages and Lander has found support from his colleagues for other ideas. Lander and Council Member Corey Johnson are working closely with the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance on a <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/how-to-build-the-movement-for-progressive-power-the-urban-way/" target="_blank">“drivers benefit fund”</a> that would use a small fare surcharge to provide health benefits to for-hire drivers. After wage protections for freelancers, drafting this legislation is Lander’s next priority; and with the city looking at rules reform for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, he said this “is a good time to move it forward.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Inevitably, workforce issues revolve in some important way around organized labor. On-demand gig workers are by their very nature unorganized. That’s where the Freelancers Union stepped in and now the City Council is moving toward creating new worker protections.</p> <p dir="ltr">Eyeing Seattle, where a City Council member is <a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattle-lawmaker-plans-to-help-for-hire-drivers-unionize/" target="_blank">pushing a bill</a> to allow taxi drivers, for-hire drivers, and those from ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to unionize and exercise collective bargaining, Lander is considering a similar path in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">Uber’s success in the city, and its disruption of the long-standing taxi/black car marketplace, has garnered the for-hire industry new attention. The ability for drivers, who are seen as independent contractors, to unionize would change the game for thousands, and the company, of course.</p> <p dir="ltr">Uber has added more than 20,000 cars to their service in the last three years and also <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-logs-major-gains-in-new-york-city-figures-show-1445821132" target="_blank">handled</a> more than 100,000 rides each day in July, four times its record from last year. &nbsp;During a summer face-off between city lawmakers and Uber, the Mayor de Blasio and the City Council brought about a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/23/nyregion/de-blasio-administration-dropping-plan-for-uber-cap-for-now.html" target="_blank">temporary detente</a> by landing on a four-month study of the effects of ride-sharing companies like Uber (and no cap on the growth of the industry). The results of that study are due soon and will likely play an important role in the future of ride-sharing in the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">An Uber representative declined to comment for this story.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city’s efforts to create space for independent contractors to unionize may run up against federal law. The <a href="https://www.nlrb.gov/resources/national-labor-relations-act" target="_blank">National Labor Relations Act of 1935</a> protects the right of employees to collectively bargain with their employers. It lays down specific definitions for employees and employers which could preempt local jurisdictions from taking action since independent contractors do not qualify under the law’s criteria.</p> <p dir="ltr">A <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-appeals-class-action-ruling-for-drivers-suit-1442362190" target="_blank">class-action lawsuit</a> brought by three drivers in California against Uber highlights this basic issue. The drivers are arguing for benefits as employees of the company while Uber maintains they are independent contractors who are not eligible for these benefits, and therefore should not <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/09/02/436820824/california-court-grants-uber-drivers-class-action-status" target="_blank">have received</a> class-action status.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">“Seattle’s leading the way,” said Council Member Lander. The proposed legislation in Seattle would create a precedent and likely face numerous legal challenges. Lander recognizes this fact. Even though the NLRA preempts the City Council from legislating, he believes there is room for cities to take action for workers not covered under the federal legislation. Currently there is no draft legislation but Lander said any proposal would attempt to protect workers across the on-demand economy and not just specific companies.</p> <p dir="ltr">(He also talked of changes to the city’s human rights laws to clarify the workers covered. He said this could happen in the next few months after these initial bills.)</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council recently took controversial action to help car wash workers unionize, but that is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/19/nyregion/carwash-owners-in-new-york-sue-city-over-unionization-rules.html?_r=0" target="_blank">being challenged in court</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member I. Daneek Miller is firmly in support of any proposal that would help on-demand drivers organize. As a former labor union leader, Miller’s perspective on the issue is decidedly pro-labor, and his position as chair of the Council's civil service and labor committee puts him at the front lines in addressing it.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">“The whole concept of the shared economy has to be put into perspective,” Miller told Gotham Gazette. “I don’t think it’s a sustainable model.”</p> <p dir="ltr">He said the “irony” of the situation is that the shared, gig economy is contributing to its own demise and disempowerment -- a younger generation with few responsibilities finds flexibility and mobility attractive and then later on when people want security, they find themselves left out in the cold.</p> <p dir="ltr">For the system to work, he said, there need to be checks and balances in the form of collective bargaining and the right to organize.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m less inclined to create public policy legislation around this,” he said about the issue of unionization, perhaps recognizing the challenges involved. “We’ll let them do their job and give them the tools to support them. We’ve got our finger on the pulse of organized labor.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Samark Khurshid<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p>