Ride Sharing in WNY
Governor’s Budget Puts Uber and Lyft on the Road
Story by John Thomas
Starting around June 29 the two most prominent ride-sharing companies in the country will offer their services to residents of Western New York. Rideshare pioneers Uber and Lyft will start rolling out their business model, first in Buffalo and then throughout the Southern Tier. The law allowing ride-sharing is part of the Governor’s 2017-18 budget. Since 2011 ridesharing services had only been allowed in New York City and some parts of Long Island, but the new bill will open service in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and the rest of Long Island. “Extending ride sharing across New York is a matter of fairness that brings new transportation options and – with it – new economic opportunity and innovation,” Governor Cuomo said. “This framework provides for a fair, safe and compressive ride sharing system that will benefit communities in every corner of this state.”
The plan had met with opposition from the Upstate Transportation Association; a coalition of cab companies and coach services. They claimed the ride-sharing companies do not do enough to assure the safety of the customers. Another concern was so-called surge pricing; that is drivers who raise their prices during holidays and special events. There have been allegations of price gouging.
The New York State law seems to have taken these issues and more into account. Drivers must be at least 19 years old and able to pass a criminal background checks, including a review of their driving record. The ride-sharing drivers must be enrolled in the DMV’s License Notification System which tracks and reports traffic ticket convictions, suspensions, revocations, reinstatements and other events. Before a user accepts a ride from a provider, the app must display the fair or estimated fair. The app must also display a photo of the driver, the make model and color of the vehicle, and its license plate number. The vehicle must also display prominently, on the passenger side, the logo of the sharing service. Drivers must carry full insurance, and the company must also carry $1.25 million liability insurance. A service fee will be added to all fairs that will go into a worker’s compensation insurance fund for the driver.
To use the services, passengers must first download either the Uber of Lyft app for their smartphones. Once a user has signed up, they input their destination, and the app will summon a driver and display the fair. If the user OK’s the fair, the app will display the expected pick-up time. Payment is also handled by the app.
Neither company could supply a specific start date for ride sharing in the Southern Tier. Campbell Matthews from Lyft issued this statement; “We’re excited to come to the region and are preparing to launch as soon as possible after the legal launch date of June 29. We’ve seen great demand for Lyft from people across the state, including the areas around Buffalo.” Multiple emails to Uber were unreturned as of press time. Both companies are actively recruiting drivers; Uber – uber.com, and Lyft – lyft.com. Anyone who meets the criteria can apply online.