Vendors look to strike gold with N.Y. transit hype

Where subways stall, publicists rush in.

With millions of New Yorkers stranded indefinitely by the city's ongoing transit strike, a smattering of technology vendors are taking advantage of the chance to tout their wares to displaced office workers.

3am Labs was first out of the gate, firing off a release last Thursday - hours before the contract expiration deadline that started the brawl between New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its workers' union - advertising its LogMeIn service for remote access to Internet-connected PCs.

Not to be outdone by a rival, Laplink Software knocked out an announcement pushing two-week free trials of its own remote-access software, Laplink Anywhere. Meanwhile, Web chat and conferencing providers spied a perfect opening to hype their services to trapped workers ready to reach out to colleagues. LiveOffice and WebEx Communications are both offering free conferencing tools to New Yorkers.

WebEx made a similar offer to Bostonians trapped at home by last year's transit shutdowns for the Democratic National Convention, according to Karen Leavitt, vice president of marketing for WebExOne. Around 500 people took up WebEx's offer then, and some became lasting customers, she said.

Business has been slower this time around. A few dozen people visited WebEx's site after it announced the offer Wednesday, Leavitt said. The company also rang New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office to pass on word about its services, but had trouble attracting interest.

"I'm sure he's a little bit busy right now," Leavitt commented.

In a city of 8 million mostly car-less residents, the New York subway is a vital transit link, and its loss has paralyzed the city. Workers who don't absolutely have to physically be at their workplaces are generally staying home, temporarily swelling the city's telecommuting ranks.

Of course, in a city of notoriously expensive and cramped apartments, cabin fever sets in quickly. New York's most popular online bulletin board,, is filled with a number of posts soliciting rides around town and "casual encounters" between consenting, bored adults looking to get closer to their neighbors.

The strike is also inspiring entrepreneurial souls. On eBay, one seller is offering a souvenir ticket from the Long Island Rail Road, one of the few local transit lines to stay active this week. The unused ticket carries a "Strike Fare" tag.

"Collector's Item!!," the listing enthuses. "Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and watch the closing doors."

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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