Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday night signed a bill that will speed up the process of allowing ridesharing across New York.
With the signing of Bill S.5814/A .7624, sponsored by Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, services such as Uber and Lyft will be operational in every region of the state by June 29 instead of July 9.
The goal of the legislation was to have ridesharing available ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.
“It’s official — our state leaders have delivered for New Yorkers and Uber is proud to announce we will launch ridesharing on June 29th — in time for July 4th weekend,” said Uber New York Spokesperson Alix Anfang. “Thank you to Governor Cuomo, the State Senate and the Assembly for bringing reliable, affordable transportation options to the Empire State. We can’t wait to bring Uber to upstate and the suburbs where residents have been demanding it.”
Ridesharing has been available in New York City for several years. In 2016, proponents made a strong push for app-based ride hailing outside the five boroughs.
One of the main arguments used by Lyft and Uber to make ridesharing legal statewide is that they can combat drunk and impaired driving.
But Assemblyman Cahill, the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, debunked this notion.
“Part of the hype these companies used was that their services would help lessen DUI’s, but there is no data proving this to be true,” Cahill said. “People’s judgment and willingness to give up their keys is still impaired whether they are calling for a cab or Uber.”
Cahill added that ridesharing upstate isn’t likely to increase jobs, and may actually kill jobs due to fewer people using traditional taxis.
“If anything, it will serve to bring competition to traditional taxi services and force them to up their game and modernize their services,” Cahill said.
Cahill and his colleagues recognized the public’s desire for ridehsaring, and he said the Legislature acted accordingly.
“It’s important to consider public outcry carefully,” Cahill said. “The state Legislature deliberated. [They] are not going to do something just because [Uber] lobbied for it.”
He noted that local governments can choose to ban ridesharing companies and opt out, which was an important stipulation for Cahill and other lawmakers.
Assemblywoman Addie Jenne, who co-sponsored the Assembly bill, said “It’s simply common sense to move the start date up so people can use this service over the Fourth of July holiday. It is my hope that people will use ride-hailing services to get home safely from their celebrations, instead of getting behind the wheel themselves after they’ve been drinking.
The ridesharing apps allow users to track their route via GPS so they know they are getting home without costly or worrisome detours. For many, it’s one less headache when planning to go out, said Jenne, D-Theresa.
“I suspect ride-hailing will be popular in college towns, the Thousand Islands area during the tourist season and in the Watertown-Fort Drum area. It may also set the stage for new transportation options becoming available in other portions of St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties,” said Jenne.
The new law will require that ride-hailing companies:
• obtain a license to operate from the Department of Motor Vehicles after providing proof of insurance;
• conduct a criminal background check on all potential drivers, including a review of the state Sex Offender Registry and the U.S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website;
• provide digital networks that display a picture of the driver and the make, model, color and license plate number of the vehicle before the passenger enters it;
• do not accept cash payment or solicit or accept street hails;
• implement a “zero-tolerance policy” regarding drug and alcohol use;
• adopt a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of destination, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age and sexual orientation; and
• implement and maintain a policy of providing accessibility to passengers with a disability and the accommodation of service animals.
The law also gives the state Division of Human Rights enforcement authority over complaints of discrimination and it requires the DMV to develop regulations to ensure ride-hailing vehicles are easily identifiable.
Insurance companies would be prohibited from canceling policies solely because the policyholder became a driver for a ridesharing company like Uber or Lyft. A ride-hailing insurance policy would also be required to provide no-fault benefits when there is a dispute as to whether a driver was acting as a ride-hailing driver at the time of an accident.
A task force will be established to analyze and advise on how to maximize effective and integrated transportation services for persons with disabilities in the ride-hailing company market.
Additionally, a state board will review issues related to the general operation of ride-hailing companies within the state, such as anti-discrimination, economic impact, driver permitting, local government impact and workers’ compensation.
“The ride-hailing plan makes sure that passengers will be protected, drivers will be held to strict, safe standards and New Yorkers with disabilities will be treated equally and fairly,” Jenne said.