New York Turns to Ride-Hailing as a Last-Mile Solution for Night-Shift Riders

And New Zealand picks a vehicle to begin testing self-flying electric air taxis and more in this week's New Starts.

An Uber ride-hailing car

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

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Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation developments worldwide.

New York Turns to Ridesharing as a Last-Mile Solution for Night-Shift Riders

A 24-hour city like New York needs 24-hour transit service to function, but not everyone who works in the overnight hours has convenient access to it. According to a story in the New York Daily News, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is getting ready to fix that problem.

The MTA announced plans on Feb. 4 to contract with an outside company to provide publicly subsidized on-demand car or van service for riders living or working in areas of the city where overnight bus service is infrequent or unavailable.

The agency stated in its announcement that it had solicited bids from potential service providers in January. The MTA is launching this service as required by a provision of the state law establishing a congestion charge in lower Manhattan. Likely bidders include ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft and transit-on-demand provider Via. The three companies already provide transportation for 700,000 New Yorkers every day.

According to the Daily News report, the winning provider will operate service in areas of the outer boroughs that are located more than a half mile from the nearest subway station and have “limited or no overnight bus service nearby.” The MTA also wants riders to be able to pay for their trips using the new OMNY digital contactless payment system. The program should launch on a pilot basis in June.

A representative of Transport Workers Union Local 100 and transit advocates quoted in the story expressed skepticism about the MTA’s plan. The TWU 100 official said that the MTA should have included this proposed service in its latest union contract if it was considering it, and the advocates wondered why this was being done when the agency is already reviewing its bus network structure, noting that improved bus service would likely be more cost-effective than subsidized ridesharing.

Trials of Self-Flying Air Taxis to Begin in New Zealand

A staple of futuristic popular-science prognosticating is moving one step closer to becoming reality. That staple: “flying cars” that will allow people to rise above traffic congestion and get where they’re going much faster.

There is a difference, though, between the flying machines now emerging and the ones predicted in years past: These will take off like helicopters and look like planes more than cars.

Two models of autonomous “air taxi” have already made their debut: a four-passenger electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) plane jointly developed by Hyundai and Uber, unveiled last month, and the Cora, a two-passenger eVTOL air taxi developed by Wisk, a joint venture of The Boeing Company and Kitty Hawk Corporation, which made its first flight in 2017.

The New Zealand government has agreed that the latter will be the first company to conduct real-world trials of self-flying taxis, according to a report in Metro Magazine.

Wisk, which is based in California and has facilities in the United States and New Zealand, is the first company to reach agreement with New Zealand to begin trials of air taxi service under a program the government announced in October 2019. The first trial program with actual passengers will operate in Canterbury, where Wisk has been test-flying the Cora since its debut. Trials will begin once Cora receives full certification from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The CAA certified the air taxi on an experimental basis in 2017.

Autonomous Electric Shuttles to Ferry World Cup Fans Around Doha

Metro Report International reports that the Qatar Investment Authority has reached a deal with Volkswagen AG to provide self-driving electric shuttles to augment local transit service for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The partnership between Qatar and Volkswagen will deliver 35 autonomous electric ID.BUZZ AD cars and 10 Scania buses to the Persian Gulf country. The vehicles will operate on semi-fixed routes in the Westbay area as an extension of Doha’s public transit system. The four-passenger Volkswagen cars resemble the classic VW Bus in appearance, while the actual buses will be able to carry larger groups.

The deal will also set up the necessary legal framework and smart-city infrastructure needed to operate the vehicles. Closed tests will begin later this year, with open trials set to begin in 2021 and full service rollout in 2022.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: new york citytaxisride-hailingautonomous vehicles

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