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Buffalo gets Ridesharing Services!

It looks as if Buffalo has crossed the ridesharing finish line before Alaska! A couple of weeks ago, Uber released a TV ad, asking those living in Upstate NY if they wanted to be the last ones to enjoy the rites of ridesharing, or would we come in dead last behind Alaska? The ad was intended to mobilize Upstate New Yorkers, to band together to make some noise, as the deadline to pass the New York State budget approached. Apparently Wyoming had just stepped up and passed ridesharing, leaving Upstate NY and Alaska to battle it out.

Thankfully, it looks as if Buffalo will not be branded the last place in the US to land Uber and Lyft services, as the senate passed the budget which includes ridesharing. As soon as the governor signs the papers, ridesharing will be legal statewide. According to NYS senator Chris Jacobs, “The DMV has 90 days to propagate regulations… now we need to keep focus on DMV to get the regs written, but we did it!”

Following Governor Cuomo’s announcement that New York’s 2017-2018 State budget includes a statewide system for ridesharing that would allow services like Uber to operate across the state, Uber Tri-State General Manager Josh Mohrer released the following statement:

“Hey, New York – your Uber is arriving this summer! Thank you to Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature for working hard on a compromise that will bring more transportation options to the Empire State. This could not have been possible without the help of all of our supporters – mayors, small business owners, clergy, community leaders and, most importantly, the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who made their voices heard by contacting elected officials to demand that ridesharing be available in all of New York. We can’t wait to bring reliable, affordable transportation options to the entire State this summer.”

“The public has been heard and they want electronic ride-hailing.  I am happy to announce the terms of the agreement that will bring these app-based services to Upstate New York and Long Island,” said Assembly Insurance Committee Chair Kevin A. Cahill. “Although the final arrangement does not offer all of the protections I hoped for, the Assembly’s leadership on this issue paved the way for provisions that protect drivers and the passenger while respecting the autonomy of our local governments. As a result of our agreement with the Governor and the State Senate, drivers will be required to pass background checks and carry 21st century insurance limits. Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) will need to create anti-discrimination policies and the State will have the power to investigate if a passenger is denied a ride because of their race, color, national origin, religious belief, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation and more.  Throughout this process, the Insurance Committee heard concerns from disability rights advocates who fear that passengers with disabilities would be unfairly denied service or charged higher rates because of their needs.  This bill contains anti-discrimination language and creates a task force that will identify how to better provide access for these important members of our communities.

The legislation also creates a four percent tax on all app-based hails and is expected to generate approximately $24 million dollars in general state support.

“This bill is the culmination of years of work by the Assembly.  We listened to a multitude of parties involved in personal commercial transportation to ensure that New York’s regulations would accommodate both them and this new industry in a responsible manner.  As someone who has used these services, I recognize how innovative these apps are and the ease that they bring to calling for a ride.  Unfortunately, over the course of this dialogue some in the ride-hailing industry have attempted to frame this debate as something other than what it was: a careful analysis of the many facets and factors related to introducing what ride-hailing advocates themselves call  ‘disruptive.’  The Assembly has always been open to bringing these services to Upstate New York and Long Island, but we have wanted to assure that it happened in a manner that would protect New Yorkers and our economy.  Multi-billion dollar companies should not be able to bully their way into an industry and dictate their own terms.  The agreement we have today recognizes this industry’s unique business model while ensuring that that TNC drivers, TNC passengers and others have access to longstanding consumer protections.”

Moving forward, drivers will have to pass a series of checkpoints, including valid insurance, criminal background checks, and Zero-Tolerance Policy measures. As for insurance policy requirements, the following is to be adhered to

  • During “Period One”— the time when a TNC driver is logged onto digital network but has not accepted or picked up a passenger—insurance limits must be $75,000 per person for death and bodily injury, $150,000 per occurrence for death and bodily injury and $25,000 for property damage
  • During “Period Two”—commencing when a TNC driver has accepted a passenger through a TNC digital network and “Period Three”—when a TNC driver is transporting a TNC passenger and until that passenger is discharged—a $1.25 million liability insurance policy would provide coverage
  • Additionally, $1.25 million supplementary uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance is also required
  • TNC drivers will also be added to the New York City Black Car Operators’ Injury Compensation Fund, which already covers drivers who work for private car services, limousines and other non-taxi vehicles

Furthermore, any any county and each city with over 100,000 residents, can opt out of the program. Ridesharing companies could still operate within the existing livery rules within a municipality, if such an instance was to occur. 

“I believe in preserving the traditional role of municipalities as regulators of for-hire vehicles.  Even if a county or city prohibits ride-hailing passenger pickups, TNC companies would be able to provide services in individual municipalities so long as they operate under the existing rules as they apply to for-hire vehicles,” explained Assemblymember Cahill.  

“While we did not achieve all of our goals, the final product does represent a fair synthesis of the values advanced by my colleagues in the Assembly,” Assemblymember Cahill said.  “While I have no doubt that the Legislature will be required to revisit this subject in the future, as has happened in jurisdictions all over the world, for now, this agreement will give ride-hailing companies like Uber, Lyft and others the opportunity to fulfill their promise to bring their services to all of Long Island and Upstate.  After all, we will now see how much upstate really does matter to these multinational giants,” he concluded.

Photo: Evelyn -an Uber driver

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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