ITHACA, NY – Boot up the Uber app and choose Ithaca – or really any upstate NY city – as your pickup location. You might be surprised to see what appears, at a glance, to be an active Uber service.

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You’ll see icons indicating nearby Uber cars moving around Ithaca’s streets, just as you might when using the app in a city that supports the service. The illusion is quickly dispelled however. The middle bar, which usually reads, “Set pickup location” instead reads, “Make this is a reality.”

This is a part of Uber’s latest marketing push to bring Uber to Upstate NY. Clicking the “Make this a reality” button links you to a petition to help support the state-level legislation — Assembly Bill A6090 — that would allow Uber to operate outside of New York City.

Related: Opinion: If Uber’s in Ithaca, it needs to play by the rules

To the Uber marketing team’s credit, the tactic seems to be working. A months-old Change.org petition in support of the same bill seems to have stalled around 3,500 signatures. Meanwhile, the in-app petition currently sits at just over 62,000 signatures, with a goal of 100,000. That’s already up 5,000 from last week, according to the figures from an Albany Business Review article.

Support for the ride-sharing service is growing in upstate. Mayors from all the major cities near Ithaca — Syracuse, Rochester, Binghampton and also Buffalo — have joined the “NY Needs Uber” coalition. With Governor Cuomo already making statements in support of a statewide regulation system, it’s looking increasingly like upstate Uber will indeed be made a reality.

Ithaca waiting on state decision

As a major college town, Ithaca falls into the secondary upstate market being market being targeted by Uber. The company has even positioned itself as a safer, more reliable alternative for getting drunken college students home after a night of partying.

City officials in Ithaca had spent months looking to preempt Uber’s arrival with legislation in place to help keep the field even between the ride-sharing startup and local taxi companies.

However, the city has recently pulled back from this approach. “We currently are not authorized to regulate companies such as Uber… the issue is really complicated and I think that’s why the governor’s have stepped up and said, ‘We don’t think you can legislate this on a municipality to municipality level,’” said City Clerk Julie Holcomb, who has been heading up the effort.

“There really needs to be statewide regulations and then we’ll figure out how we need to amend our legislation from there,” she added.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.