By Sabina Mollot
Residents of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village who used to ride the now discontinued downtown shuttle now have a new option.
A cab share program that allows riders to pre-select their cab mates online based on location and other factors of their choosing has been launched by a former shuttle regular.
Josh Wittman, a Stuyvesant Town resident who recently founded Cab With Me with four technology developers, said the cab share program is different than another one that the city tried unsuccessfully to push in 2009. The service, which is free, allows users to be more in control of the process, said Wittman, by giving the option of connecting with others by linking their Facebook, LinkedIn or Google + profiles to the website or staying as private as possible. In the latter case, users wouldn’t have to enter any more information about themselves than a first name and email address.
Wittman, however, thinks social media will end up being the more widely used option.
“To some degree you need social media,” said Wittman, a three-year resident, because you have some people who are going to be hesitant of a plan to get in a cab with a stranger.”
It also works by allowing participants to input their exact locations and get matched up with other interested parties “so they can meet up, share a cab and save money,” added Wittman. “We really built this for Stuy Town since it’s a huge connected community and is out of the way geographically.” It also allows users to join pre-built communities such as Stuy Town, or custom ones created by the user. Then the system filters ride listings only for the communities users joined.
So far, the service, which has been available for the past couple of weeks, was given a plug by CompassRock on the PCVST Living website.
It was last year when the downtown shuttle, first introduced in 2007, was discontinued. It was offered as one of
the services through Oval Concierge and took residents from several stops around ST/PCV to the financial district in the mornings. Wittman, 28, said he used to take the shuttle every day to the World Financial Center where he works at American Express. “It was the best thing — it used to pick me up at my door,” he said.
But after the service was no more, he started looking into other options more convenient than the subway. Ultimately, sharing cabs wound up saving him $10 a day and he began asking around to see if others would participate in an organized cab share program. The response, through a survey, was encouragingly positive. Neighbors have also shown interest in the service, he said.
Though the goal is to eventually turn Cab With Me into a for profit business, he said this would be done through offering premium services like black car rides, not by charging for the cab shares.
As for the city’s previous attempt to promote cab shares, Wittman said he thinks it failed to become popular because the lack of technology made it inflexible. “Our platform is digital and we think that fixes the problems that Bloomberg faced with his experiment,” he said.