Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing companies get green light for upstate expansion


A provision in the 2018 budget is changing the face of transportation in New York state. Ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft got the green light to start building their fleets in upstate communities.

Nearly six years after Uber began operating in New York City, ride-sharing will now be legalized and regulated outside the five boroughs.

The change is a hard-fought victory for app-based ridesharing companies like Uber, Lyft, Gett and Via, that use a network of drivers and cars to provide an alternate form of travel for riders.

Ridesharing is typically cheaper because rates are determined based on distance traveled rather than how long the ride takes, as is traditional practice for taxis. Using their phones’ GPS systems, riders can request a car to meet them at their location and have a driver there in minutes.

According to Adrian Durbin, director of communications for Lyft, the company has already begun the screening process for its upstate fleets.

“We are interested in hearing from people who want to be drivers all across New York,” he said.

Ridesharing companies are required to conduct criminal background checks on all potential drivers and continue to update these checks yearly. Additionally, all cars used by drivers must meet specific safety and emissions requirements.

The budget bill, (A.3009-c/S.2009-c), allows for ride-sharing companies to now begin obtaining their operating licenses and purchasing insurance coverage for their drivers. It also requires the establishment of a Transportation Network Accessibility Task Force and review board within the next 30 days in order to lay out further provisions as they become necessary.

Each county across the state, as well as cities with more than 100,000 residents, is permitted to ban transportation network companies within their boundaries.

Durbin says that small cities should consider the economic and safety benefit of ridesharing to their communities.

“Just last year, there was a $750 million economic spur across cities that have ridesharing,” he said.

The option of requesting a ride at the end of the night can motivate people to visit restaurants and bars without the worry of finding a ride back home.
“Several studies across the country have found that instances of DUI are significantly lower in places where ridesharing is introduced,” Durbin said. A study completed by economist Jessica Peck, the executive director of the Open Government Institute of Colorado, found that instances of alcohol-related collision saw a 25 to 30 percent decrease in New York City since the introduction of Uber in 2011.

Leaders from small cities across New York fought to permit ridesharing throughout the state, lauding the wealth of economic benefits it can potentially bring to their communities.

“I have been eager to bring ridesharing and its job-creating potential to Rochester,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, a strong proponent of ridesharing upstate. “Opening more transportation opportunities for our residents will directly benefit millennials, our neighbors living in poverty, and our entire community. Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft will bring more job-creating opportunities to our city and its residents.”