Governor Cuomo Advocates For Ride-Hailing Apps Upstate

After three years of trying to get ride hailing car services like Uber and Lyft approved in upstate New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is putting the proposal into high gear. 

“Ride sharing is creating thousands of jobs. It’s promoting safety for passengers. It’s making transportation less expensive. ... It’s helpful for people who go out and may have a few drinks," said the governor.

He says it’s time for ride hailing services to come upstate. It’s already operational in New York City, but has hit road blocks expanding to other parts of the state, where it would need legislative approval. The governor spoke of the unfair disparity to a round of applause at his State Of the State address in Buffalo on Monday.

“It’s one of those examples, my friends, where it is just an unfair duality. If it makes sense for downstate, it makes sense for upstate,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo says approving the service would create jobs and increase tourism. Advocates like Joe Bonilla say it would also bring upstate transportation into the 21st century. 

“In a region like the Capital Region, which is a first-rate region, we have third world-style taxi and livery service, so we look at ride sharing as being a way for us to connect our communities, and also be able to increase safety for our beverage producers but also for our entire region,” said Bonilla.

But critics disagree. The Upstate Transportation Association released a statement reading in part, ”Ridesharing can only exit statewide if Uber and Lyft operate upstate under the same safety and insurance regulations that currently protect riders in New York City.”

“The differences on the transparency side for ride sharing is that you see in the app, you see the driver who's coming to get you," Bonilla said. "You know where the car is going to be. You know the type of car you’re riding in, and you also have a rating system as well."

Cuomo is using his State Of the State tour to put pressure on the legislature to pass ride hailing this year. 

“Upstate matters, and that’s what I want you to tell your legislatures when they come home. 'Don’t come home to Buffalo unless you pass unless you pass ride sharing for upstate New York,' ” said Cuomo.

Uber released a statement thanking Governor Cuomo for listening to the voices of New Yorkers who are demanding affordable, reliable transportation options.

FROM GOVERNOR'S PRESS RELEASE

The proposal includes:

· DMV licensing and oversight of rideshare companies, including providing DMV with broad auditing powers to ensure uniformity in access for all New Yorkers and compliance with all laws, rules and regulations;

· Establishing minimum standards for rideshare companies to vet their drivers including requiring background checks, explicitly disqualifying people with certain convictions from driving to ensure rider safety, and requiring ongoing monitoring for traffic safety;

· Setting necessary consumer protections that ensure passengers receive information, such as driver identification, details of the car, and estimated fare, prior to engaging in a ride. Rideshare drivers must also display distinctive signs on their vehicles identifying the rideshare company they work for;

· Requiring rideshare companies and/or rideshare drivers to obtain and maintain insurance coverages that are double the current auto insurance limits in upstate New York and have a limit of at least one million dollars of coverage while a rideshare vehicle is on the way to pick up a passenger and while transporting a passenger;

· Establishing the first of its kind mechanism to provide rideshare drivers workers' compensation coverage by requiring participation in the Black Car Fund, which currently provides workers' compensation coverage for downstate taxi and livery drivers;

· Mandating rideshare companies adopt a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy and enacting common sense requirements to ensure drivers are performing in the safest way possible for both drivers and riders. This includes requiring rideshare companies provide a mechanism for passengers to report complaints when they reasonably believe a driver to be under the influence;

· Applying anti-discrimination requirements to ensure no passenger is discriminated against on the basis of his or her race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or genetic predisposition and are treated equally by rideshare companies and drivers; and

· Creating a task force to review, study and make recommendations regarding accessibility needs in the rideshare industry in an effort to protect and provide transportation to vulnerable populations.

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