Stranded New Yorkers turn to the Web

As the city braces for the first transit strike in 25 years, its citizens line up rides and get information online.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read
New Yorkers all over the city and surrounding areas are turning to the Internet in preparation for the first transit strike to hit the city in 25 years.

Members of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York have been deadlocked in contract negotiations for several days. TWU members have threatened to strike when their contract expires at midnight Thursday if their demands are not met.

In yet another example of how powerful and useful the Web can be in times of crisis, New Yorkers are turning to the Internet not only to get more information about the strike and the city's contingency plans, but also to arrange rides.

In anticipation of the strike, people all week have been posting on Craigslist, either looking for rides in and around Manhattan or seeking passengers, because the city is requiring vehicles entering Manhattan below 96th Street to carry at least four people. By late Thursday afternoon, pages were filling up with requests and pleas for help.

"Need a ride from williamsburg (around the Bedford L stop) to union square that will get there around 8:30/9ish tomorrow," one poster wrote. "I can help pay for gas. Please make my life easier!"

Mano Ganguly, who lives in Queens and works in Manhattan, said he felt he had to do something as news of the possible strike became gloomier Thursday afternoon. He had used Craigslist to find his apartment when he first moved to the city, so he figured it would be a good place to find a ride for Friday morning.

"Craigslist has the kind of eyeballs that is required to get a response that you need for tomorrow morning," he said. "It dawned on me pretty late today to post an ad, but hopefully I'll get some responses in time."

Several official and unofficial Web sites have been updating information about what to do in case of a strike. About.com has put together a special Web page with detailed information, including a map of taxi zones (click for PDF). Taxi drivers will be required to pick up multiple passengers. About.com has mapped out the different zones with an explanation of pricing rules.

The Securities Industry Association, which represents more than 600 securities firms, has added a special section on its Web site where members can get information about what the organization is doing to help in the event of a strike. The trade organization has hired 50 buses that will transport workers into the city. It has provided a detailed map (click here for PDF) that shows all the places where carpools and buses will be picking up workers.

The city is also updating its Web site with information about contingency plans for people trying to get around the city in the event of a strike.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the strike could cost the local economy about $400 million per day. The city itself would lose about $22 million a day in tax and overtime police expenditures.

In 1980, at the time of the last transit strike, about 4.8 million people used the city's buses and subways each day. Now, roughly 7.5 million people use the city's transit system, city officials said.