Excellent Uber Ad Distills the Problem With Uber in Crowded Cities

Photo:  Uber
Photo: Uber

In a brilliant new spot, Uber inadvertently lays out exactly why its for-hire vehicles won’t solve transportation headaches in crowded cities.

Produced by the Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors, “Boxes” shows people moving around Bangkok streets in clunky cardboard appendages meant to represent cars. By stripping away the gloss, anonymity, and cultural connotations of car exteriors and leaving only their bulk, the ad brilliantly highlights why moving around in single-occupancy vehicles is so absurd in an urban context. There’s just not enough space for everyone to get around this way.

It’s a great ad for transitways or bike lanes or any transportation mode more spatially efficient than cars. But Uber suggests that its service — which mostly ferries around single passengers in automobiles — is somehow the solution to the problem.

The more we learn about the effect of Uber and similar services, the clearer it becomes that these claims are misleading. Uber is exacerbating congestion in the most crowded parts of New York City, and recent research indicates that ride-hailing apps in other major American cities divert trips from transit and increase the number of cars on the road.

There’s certainly a place for these services in the transportation ecosystem, but they’re not a solution to moving large numbers of people in crowded cities. No app, no matter how user-friendly, can turn cars into a congestion fix.

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