RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Two Uber executives proposed a plan Wednesday night to offer Ridgewood commuters subsidized rides to and from the train station.
“We’re proposing 50 residents for the pilot program, but really we’re looking to work with whatever suits your needs,” said Lily Sassoon, driver operations and logistics manager for Uber in New Jersey.
Participants in the program would pay a flat rate, she told the Village Council.
“But it would only be recognized during the specified times — Monday through Friday 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” Sassoon said.
Ridgewood’s role would be to pay the difference between the flat fare and the actual fare.
Cost estimates for the village, Sassoon said, are based on an average fare of $7 and the assumption a commuter will use Uber a few times a week.
If commuters pay a $4 flat rate as their share, Ridgewood would pay $3,700 for a one-month pilot or $22,000 for a six-month pilot.
If commuters pay a higher $5 flat rate, the village’s share goes down accordingly: $2,500 for a one-month pilot and $15,000 for six months.
The proposal comes a month before the contract for E&K Village Taxi service expires.
Parking for commuters has long been a village issue: there are only 105 parking spaces at the station.
“Essentially, it’s building a virtual garage,” said Councilman Ramon Hache, expressing support for the program.
But he and other council members had questions.
Hache asked if Uber’s surge pricing policy would be in effect.
It would, according to Ana Mahony, general manager of Uber in New Jersey.
The policy raises rates when there aren’t enough drivers to match the demand at a given place. When the supply of drivers goes up, the price goes down.
Deputy Mayor Michael Sedon inquired about driver insurance.
The company carries a commercial insurance policy that covers every single Uber trip that takes place up to $1.5 million per incident, Mahony said.
“That’s more than 40 times what local taxis are required to have in the state of New Jersey,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh questioned if commuters would use the service. A commuter paying the $4 rate would pay $960 a year for rides, she said, and a parking permit costs $750.
“There is a convenience factor that may outweigh that cost,” said Sassoon, citing Uber’s pilot program for 100 commuters in Summit, which started this month.
“It sold out the first day,” she said.
Mayor Susan Knudsen envisions a lottery to choose participants for the pilot.
Another factor that must be worked into the discussion, she added, is retaining discounted rides for seniors and those with disabilities.
The council could vote on the proposal as soon as Nov. 9.
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