Getting around upstate New York this Independence Day weekend may be faster, safer, and cheaper now that ride-hailing companies have the greenlight from the state.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Monday that permits ride-hailing companies (such as Uber and Lyft) to service cities including Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse as well as Long Island beginning June 29. That’s just in time for the busy Independence Day Weekend.
Earlier this year, lawmakers approved budget provisions to allow ride-hailing apps to operate outside of New York City. The law required a 90-day waiting period to give the companies and communities time to prepare. That would have moved the start date to July 9 –well after July 4th.
Lawmakers moved ahead to accelerate the ride-sharing approval citing the impact on traffic and safety:
"Giving ride-sharing companies the green light 10 days early in time for the Fourth of July weekend, when tourism traffic and holiday celebrations will be at their peak, could be a true lifesaver," said state Sen. James Seward, an Otsego County Republican.
They are not off base. Research shows that the entrance of Uber lowers the rate of DUIs and fatal accidents. This bodes well for residents and law enforcement in the state.
Ridesharing in New York has been contentious. It had been limited to New York City as because lawmakers could not come to an agreement on how it should be regulated.
This year, Governor Cuomo added ridesharing regulations as a top 2017-2018 budget priority. Under these provisions, drivers must submit to background checks, and riders will get extra fees tacked on to their rides including a four-percent tax on each trip and an additional 2.5-prcent surcharge which will go toward a driver’s fund for compensation benefits.
The taxis kicked against the governor’s proposal calling it, “a move straight from the Trump playbook — he turned a blind eye to labor violations and worker exploitation but focused razor sharp on rewarding these reprehensible practices.”
Given that riders are paying into a fund, their qualm seems irrelevant.
A state-wide bill in New York, as we’ve seen in Texas and Florida, is an imperfect but common-sense approach to ensuring two things: (1) ride-hailing can legally operate in states, and (2) drivers don’t unwittingly break local laws as they shuttle across counties.
Upstate New York is reportedly one of the the last places in the country without access to ride sharing services. Uber is speeding up efforts to recruit drivers for the demand:
"It'll take a little bit of time for the service to be as reliable as in New York City," she said recently. "Our goal is to be everywhere as soon as we can."
That said, the app is hosting weekly recruiting sessions throughout upstate New York throughout the month, and she said demand for both drivers and passengers has been high.
"We can't wait to bring Uber to upstate and the suburbs where residents have been demanding it," Anfang said in a statement Tuesday morning.
Like the DNC in Philadelphia, we’ve seen that when major, traffic-snarling events are on the horizon, even opponents of the sharing economy capitulate because they recognize the value of innovation. At least New York can be added to that list.