ITHACA, N.Y. — Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft have been approved to come to Upstate New York at the end of June.
The state Senate and Assembly have now approved bills allowing ride-hailing applications to be available in Upstate New York on June 29, slightly earlier than originally planned. The law was initially slated to go into effect July 9, but moving the date back allows the services to go into effect by July 4, which is considered one of the most dangerous days to drive.
The bill now just needs a signature from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been pushing for ride sharing services to expand upstate.
In Cuomo’s State of the State address in January, he said enabling access to ride-hailing services was one of his priorities for the year. He said his hope is that “this action will spur economic development across upstate and further position our upstate cities as cities of the 21st century.”
Uber, Lyft and any other ride-sharing companies will be under the oversight of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Josh Gold, policy director for Uber in New York, said drivers should be available as soon as the law goes into effect. Gold said across the state, tens of thousands of people have signed up to be drivers.
“We’re confident at this point that we’ll have the ability to have enough vehicles on the road across the state to launch on June 29,” Gold said.
Gold said Uber follows New York’s thorough background check process that checks federal, state and local databases to find violations. Drivers also can’t appear in the national sex offender registry and will be disqualified if they have committed certain crimes.
It has been a long battle to get ride-hailing services like Uber to Upstate New York. Uber launched six years ago and has spread throughout the country and world. Upstate New York is one of the last states to approve ride-sharing services.
With Uber or Lyft, people can use an application on their phone to hail a ride. Prices vary according to a variety of factors, such as distance and demand, unlike taxi services that have consistent rates.
Gold said it’s hard to say how many drivers will be operating in Ithaca because all the drivers are independent contractors. He said their goal is to have wait times in the “single digits,” under 10 minutes. He said more than half of the drivers across the country work 10 hours or less per week on average.
“We’re confident that we’ll have enough drivers to serve the community,” Gold said.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick has been a strong supporter of bringing ride-sharing services to Ithaca. Last year, he said Uber and Lyft would “reduce drunk driving, give consumers more options and reduce the demand for individual car ownership. In a college town they are especially useful because the number of drivers can expand easily at times of high demand.”
Tompkins County and local governments with a population greater than 100,000 do have the option to opt out of ride-hailing services. Currently, county officials are mulling whether these services are the best fit for Tompkins County.
Legislator Mike Lane, who chairs the Transportation Committee, said legislators have been discussing whether they should opt out. Lane said they need to take a serious public safety look at ride-hailing services.
“We don’t want any unsafe situations for our residents,” Lane said.
The issue will be discussed further at the next Transportation Committee meeting June 26.
Photo courtesy of Uber.