New York City’s ban on rideshare during the curfew hurt essential workers

Ride-share options have become critical for doctors and nurses, security staff and city employees—including cops and firefighters—to get to and from work during the pandemic. These people are the backbone of our city, and they’ve often been working long hours for weeks at a time to keep all of us safe and healthy.

The workers’ transportation options are already severely limited. Subways are closed every night for cleaning. Therefore, people who work overnight shifts that begin or end around the time of the subway shutdown use ride-share options to plan their commute. These people are not in white-collar jobs and cannot afford to drive their own car if they have one; even if they could, they cannot secure affordable, safe parking.

The city is making it harder for them to get to their job.

Many essential workers use ride-share companies because they live in areas of the city where the subway or bus isn’t even an option. Not to mention the fact that many New Yorkers are still uncomfortable with using public transportation, as the coronavirus continues its destructive path.

The city’s misguided ban, which exempted yellow cabs from the curfew, was a dangerous solution. Yellow cabs have a history of not picking up people of color or providing service to certain neighborhoods in our city. Yellow cabs also tend to be more expensive and are harder to find, especially at night and in areas outside of Manhattan. Asking people to stand in the middle of an intersection to try to hail a cab late at night seems inherently unsafe, especially considering the recent protests in city streets.

Perhaps even more concerning, many not-for-profits across the city, us included, have been distributing free ride codes to essential workers and those who need access to transportation, including some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. These organizations—food banks, homeless shelters and senior centers among them—were unable to provide the free rides in some of the hours they are most needed.

Banning ride-share cars from operating for much of the curfew also limited earning opportunities for ride-share drivers. With the country under financial strain, we should not be reducing income for anyone, as long as they can carry out their work while adhering to health and safety protocols.

The number of unemployed New Yorkers has more than tripled from one month to the next. Making it harder for New Yorkers to get to work—particularly in roles that are critical to the city—is simply bad policy.

City Hall should not make life harder for New Yorkers during what is, for many, the hardest few months they have ever experienced.

Thankfully we’ve moved beyond the days when yellow cabs were the only option. The city should stop bringing us into the past with its yellow-cab favoritism. It should consider how critical ride-sharing is for New Yorkers.

Elisha Pierre is director of operations for the Haitian American Caucus.

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