Editor’s Note: This is a guest editorial written by John Kadar, President of Ithaca Dispatch and Total Transportation of Elmira. It was not written by the Ithaca Voice.
Submit guest columns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, Mayor Myrick expressed enthusiasm on his Facebook page for Uber and Lyft’s impending arrival to Ithaca. He tried very hard to divert public attention away from the questionable labor and safety practices of these companies. Both companies recruit drivers using false earning claims and use demonstrably flawed driver background vetting methods. In all but a handful of metropolitan places, Uber and Lyft drivers struggle to make minimum wage.
The Mayor’s faithful repeating of the Uber and Lyft talking points about the economic and consumer choice benefits these companies will usher into our area is preposterous because he must know that supporting evidence from other cities for these claims has not been offered. Neither is the Mayor’s claim that Uber and Lyft will reduce deaths resulting from drunk driving relevant to Ithaca where vigilant law enforcement, MADD campaigns and local taxi services have nearly eliminated deaths and injuries arising from drunk driving.
While whitewashing Uber and Lyft’s shortcomings by ignoring them, the Mayor ranted about local taxi services for late arrivals, no shows and other transgressions, underscoring these criticisms by citing his personal experience on weekend nights.
Though I was tempted to respond tit for tat to the Mayor’s rant, I believe it may serve the community better to make the case for why the new NYS TNC law that will go into effect in July, allowing Uber and Lyft to launch, will make possible improvements in service by local taxi services while not leading necessarily to the former companies gaining a significant market share.
The TNC regulation recently enacted by the NYS Legislature will allow Ithaca Dispatch to solve a failure of service problem (scaling up its fleet to meet peak demand) that under previous NY State and local regulations was not solvable. The new TNC law allows an affiliate of Ithaca Dispatch to supplement a conventional fleet with personally owned and driven vehicles whose cost of operation will be born in large part by the affiliate drivers, just as Uber and Lyft require its drivers to do, except that a much smaller commission will be taken from them as return for their service. The consequence of these new policies will be that during peak periods there will be more drivers working. Hence, consumers will experience faster response times to their request for service.
Uber and Lyft drivers typically operate only during periods and in areas of robust demand. When demand for car service is sporadic and widely spread geographically as in the Ithaca area, Uber and Lyft drivers will avoid working during these periods and in such places because they want to avoid driving deadhead miles. Deadheads miles are when a driver is moving and incurring costs without having or expecting a paying occupant in her vehicle. So, enthusiastic Uber and Lyft supporters should not be surprised if Uber and Lyft do not live up to their expectations for timely arrivals.
And do supporters really believe that an Uber or Lyft driver will pick them up when they summon one in the middle of the night or in inclement weather or if you just need a ride to place a short distance away? If that is your situation you will receive a text message informing you that “there is no service in your area”. If you cannot download the Uber or Lyft app because you do not have a credit card or one with sufficient funds, paying with cash will not be an option.
The only place and time Uber and Lyft may improve service in Ithaca will be during Friday and Saturday evenings in and near Collegetown and Ithaca College when students require transportation to parties. Even those trips which usually involve short distances, hence, are not very profitable, may not provide sufficient incentive to Uber and Lyft drivers who do not want to work for minimum wage or subject their personal vehicles to unusual wear and tear by rowdy students. And finally, it remains to be seen that co-eds and female staff from Ithaca College and Cornell University will use Uber and Lyft given the latter’s awful record of sexual assaults and rapes.
Uber and/or Lyft will launch in Ithaca in July to frenzied fanfare. Uber and Lyft will make incredible claims about the quality of their services and its wonderful benefits to the area’s economic development. When the dust settles, some consumers of for-hire car service may be better off (primarily due to improvements made by Ithaca Dispatch) while the area’s economic growth will have been unaffected by Uber and Lyft’s presence, unless you consider a small increase in minimum wage jobs as an improvement.
What is for sure is that with Mayor Myrick’s blessing two behemoth corporations known for their lawless actions and exploitative labor practices will attempt to monopolize not only for-hire car service but also encroach into the turf of public transportation. If they succeed, it will (deservedly) stain the otherwise excellent progressive record of Mayor Myrick.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr.