A new app wants to make it easier for riders and operators of New York City’s unofficial transportation system to get around, the New York Times reported. Since 1980, dollar vans have catered to communities underserved by the city’s subway and bus system, offering commuters in neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens an affordable (a trip typically costs $2 compared to the subway’s $2.75) way to travel. Since much of the system operates underground, riders learn of routes and pick-up spots through word-of-mouth. Developers of a new app, Dollaride, hope to make finding a ride easier for the 120,000 daily dollar van commuters, as well as open up the service to more people.
Sulaiman Sanni, who developed Dollaride, told the Times the app is meant to make transportation accessible to “anyone anywhere,” especially those in transit deserts, places where the nearest public transportation option is at least a 15-minute walk away.
“Our mission is to make transportation accessible to anyone anywhere, starting with the people who live in transit deserts,” Sanni said. “A lot of us in New York, including the regulators realize that our public transit system is going in a downward spiral.”
Dollaride allows users to see the real-time location of a licensed van, as well as their destination. Plus, the $2 fare can be paid directly through the app. Developers of Dollaride will also work with companies looking to give employees an alternative way to get to the office.
According to the Times, the number of riders taking a dollar van has doubled from 20 years ago, up to as many as 120,000 people each day. Out of the roughly 2,000 drivers in the system, three-quarters are unlicensed.
During the transit strike of 1980, residents began using their own personal vehicles to drive people to their destinations for $1, as the New Yorker reported. The vans continued to drive even after the strike ended, serving low-income, immigrant communities, who often lack access to transit options.
The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has been issuing licenses to vans since 1994, but the strict requirements and high costs of licensing have forced many drivers to operate illegally. Currently, the app only includes licensed vans.
Dollaride developers see the app as an opportunity for the network of vans and their routes to grow. The technology could encourage unlicensed vans to register with the city.
[Via NY Times]
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