After the Storm

For the Love of God, Someone Hack the Commute

You'll get there... eventually.
 For the Love of God, Someone Hack the Commute

Welcome to gridlock hell. (Instagram/sarahtonein)

The worst of the weather has passed, and it’s time for many New Yorkers to start getting back to work. Only, with the subways and many of the tunnels out of commission, anyone attempting to get from point A to point B is dealing with a traffic disaster unseen since the days when horse-and-buggies clopped their way down Fifth Avenue.

Which is why someone–or hey, multiple someones! Let’s convene a hackathon!–from the tech community needs to step in and hash out a useful service to help us navigate this hot mess.

Without the trains, commuters are forced to take the surface streets, whether by bus, car, bike or foot. A glance at Google Maps with the traffic layer enabled almost requires smelling salts:

screen shot 2012 10 31 at 11 45 32 am For the Love of God, Someone Hack the Commute

Christ, it’s like Los Angeles without the nice weather.

Don’t forget, on top of everything else, the streets around the city’s very own Sword of Damocles, the One57 crane, are also closed.

It’s enough to make even the most relentlessly anti-nostalgia New Yorkers wish we still had the turn-of-the-century trolley cars.

We suspect that, as this drags on, New Yorkers are suddenly going to wish we’d seen a local flowering of the rideshare apps that are so popular on the other, more car-dependent side of the country. SideCar, Lyft and RideJoy are all limited to the West Coast. There’s Uber, but even with “surge pricing” suspended, it’s not exactly a financially viable solution if this mess extends into next week (which it very well might).

Betabeat reached out to Mr. Weissman, who told us, “I know people are talking about ridesharing but haven’t seen it yet.”

And yet, at the moment when they’re most needed (and perhaps have the biggest opportunity), the ridesharing services with presences here–ZimRide, Ridejoy, Avengo–aren’t exactly engaging in a full-court press to get the word out. Nor do the offerings seem all that robust. For example, we found one lone entrepreneur hustling on ZimRide (which only came to New York back in August). RidePost, a social site for posting and searching planned trips, is making an effort in the form of suspended fees–but there doesn’t seem to be much action yet in terms of posts from New Yorkers.

Updated: We reached out to Zimride, who informed us, “We have been following the activity closely and have not seen any increases or postings referring specifically to Sandy…. it does not appear that users are relying on online ridesharing in this situation any more than normal for the area.” Which makes us wonder whether they’ll see a bump if it takes much longer to get service up and going.

Which is why we at Betabeat, as New Yorkers and observers of the startup scene, humbly entreat anyone with coding skills to please build some sort of app–or series of apps–to help smooth out all these monstrous inefficiencies.

In the meantime, guess we’ll all have to follow the example of Roger Ehrenberg:

screen shot 2012 10 31 at 12 53 02 pm For the Love of God, Someone Hack the Commute

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com