Upstate ridesharing good for economy, environment, public safety

The New York State Senate recently passed legislation I authored that would give ride-sharing the green light in upstate. The comprehensive bill (S.4159) provides the framework for ride-sharing companies to expand operations outside of New York City creating new jobs and offering safe, reliable transportation options.

You may have head of Uber or Lyft or another transportation network company (TNC) but if you live in the 51st Senate District, or anywhere outside of New York City, you are unable to use these convenient ride-hailing phone apps. My bill would remedy that.

I first began discussions regarding TNCs in 2014, sponsored legislation in 2015 to bring TNCs to upstate New York, and convened a senate roundtable on ride-sharing in November 2015 to hear from TNCs, insurance companies, local municipal officials, small business owners, disability advocates, and taxi and livery industry representatives. Last year, the senate passed a bill I sponsored that focused on the insurance aspects only. Since then, I have continued to fine tune this legislation leading to the new bill that was just approved by the senate.

The measure includes important protections for both drivers and consumers as part of the regulatory framework. It requires criminal and driving history background checks, passenger notifications of driver information and trip charges, and the adoption of non-discrimination and zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policies.

The bill creates a new TNC Accessibility Task Force to identify and address barriers to and opportunities for greater access for New Yorkers of all abilities, and includes TNC drivers in workers’ compensation insurance offered through the existing Black Car Fund, among other provisions.

I am pleased that the governor is also a proponent of ride-sharing. My legislation is similar to a proposal included in the governor’s executive budget proposal. One major difference – taxes.

This bill passed by the senate brings savings to passengers and makes it more attractive for businesses to operate here. While the governor’s budget plan includes a tax of 5.5 percent on rides that begin outside of New York City, the senate’s measure cuts that tax to 2 percent and does not subject rides to the 4 percent state sales tax. Also, under my bill, the new revenue generated would go directly towards infrastructure improvements for roads, bridges, and county transit needs.

Unshackle Upstate was among the groups applauding the senate passage of ridesharing, issuing the following statement:

“Allowing ride-hailing services to operate in upstate communities is long overdue and we thank the members of the senate who voted in support of this proposal. Services like Uber and Lyft will provide upstate residents and visitors with a safe, reliable transportation option that is already available in New York City and 47 states. Providing upstate drivers with an opportunity to earn income on a schedule that works for them is a win-win that everyone should support.”

The Business Council of New York State also backed the bill. President and CEO Heather C. Bricetti said, “As we laid out in our Back to Business agenda, promoting “economic freedom” by allowing new industries and new business models such as ridesharing will help spur economic development, create jobs and complement our state’s existing public transit systems. Residents in New York City and across the world have for years enjoyed the services of companies like Uber and Lyft. It’s time the rest of our state gets to join in.”

The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police has also strongly supported ride-sharing expansion as a way to cut down on alcohol related fatalities. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has also called for the availability of ride-sharing statewide.

Business executives, tourists, college students, and everyone in between utilize ride-sharing apps when visiting cities around the nation and the world. Upstate New York riders should not be left at the curb. This bill delivers economic, environmental, and public safety benefits and is long overdue.

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