As of the measure passed 53-5, the New York State Senate voted on Monday, Feb. 6 to permit the expansion of Uber and Lyft services to upstate New York. The state Assembly has yet to vote on the legislation.
The ride-hailing services the two apps offer are currently prohibited from operating outside of the New York metropolitan area. Senators in favor of the bill have reasoned that this technology will be useful in providing additional transportation options.
Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to bring Uber and Lyft to the upstate area would impose a 5.5 percent tax on all fares, many are hesitant of the potential negative impact to traditional taxi and limousine companies. According to Cuomo’s proposal, a fifth of this tax revenue would be reserved for local public transportation systems.
However, since these trips would not be subject to sales tax (differing from traditional taxi companies) counties where Uber and Lyft operate would not receive any additional revenue.
This proposal was a large part of Cuomo’s 2017 State of the State Address. He focused on emphasizing the importance and attention to investment to upstate New York, in comparison to previous years.
“It is an unfair duality, if it makes sense for upstate it makes sense for downstate it makes sense for upstate,” Cuomo said in regards to the absence of ride-hailing services in upstate New York. “Upstate is left out, there are thousands of possible jobs.”
Cuomo’s proposal, as laid out on governor.ny.gov, will take initiative to establish standards which include, but are not limited to, driver background vetting, applying anti-discrimination requirements, requiring the development of ride-sharing companies to obtain and maintain insurance coverages and mandating the adoption of a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy.
Ulster County Legislator Hector Rodriguez said that while he has reservations about the lack of regulation and background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers, there are doubtless benefits to having this new technology available upstate.
“Ulster County is a huge county bisected by rivers and mountains,” Rodriguez said. “In these more remote areas, there is not a widespread network of taxis, so this is where Uber and Lyft could be useful.”
Rodriguez emphasized the importance of creating competition between transportation services in order to lower prices and increase availability of companies.
Rodriguez, as part of the Economic Development, Tourism, Housing, Planning and Transit Committee of New York, worked to pass a resolution to invoke a home rule in Ulster County that would allow regulation and supervision for the registration and licensing of taxicabs, limousines and livery vehicles.
According to the resolution, the Senate Bill No. S5301A and Assembly Bill No. A7480A requests “an act to amend the general municipal law and the vehicle and traffic law, in relation to authorizing the county of Ulster to regulate the registration and licensing of taxicabs, limousines and livery vehicles.”
This resolution acts in-lieu of a taxi and limousine commission for upstate New York. The lack of presence of such a commission as robust as the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) in upstate New York has been one of the points of hesitation for allowing Uber and Lyft to come upstate.
With differing potential compromises to ensure safety and fair pricing on Uber and Lyft, many residents of the upstate area in favor of Cuomo’s proposal are hopeful for its passing in the Assembly.