The debate rages on over whether or not ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft should be allowed to exist and compete in New York cities outside of the Big Apple, the only place in the state where such services are legal. According to Buffalo’s NPR news station, WBFO, supporters of the mobile app-based services gathered outside Kleinhans Music Hall this past Thursday to press state lawmakers on the issue.
“Some live and work in areas where there are huge transportation gaps,” said Rhonda Frederick, president and CEO of People, Inc. “Having ride-sharing options can help our seniors and individuals with disabilities get to critical doctor appointments. Ride-sharing can help employees who may not have their own car or be on a bus line. It helps increase employment.”
Of course, on the other side of the argument are the taxi drivers who say that it’s unfair to allow these type of services since they aren’t required to follow the same regulations and protocols that their drivers are held to.
“The current cab industry has to go through City Hall and receive permission from them. It’s called a Hack License to hire somebody,” said Mark Robinson, a consultant for Liberty Communications, which provides services for companies like Yellow Cab. “They do a background check, they check their criminal history, their driving records, et cetera. And then once that happens, we can then entertain them to be an employee for us.”
Aside from the potential job creation, benefits to citizens, and ability to attract tourists (Buffalo is now the largest city in the country that does not allow Uber) many argue that making these sort of services available makes for a safer city, especially when it comes to drunk driving. In fact, Uber’s entry into California markets reduced DUI deaths by between 3.6% and 5.6% between 2009 and 2014, according to a recent Entrepreneur article.
While there’s no set timetable for lawmakers to decide, supporters in Buffalo, Rochester, and other cities across the state are hopeful that lawmakers will take action before the end of the current legislative session.
“From corporate and business professionals, conventioneers and event attendees, and leisure travelers, they have all become conditioned to pull out their phones, tap on an icon, and request a Lyft or Uber vehicle,” said Patrick Kaler, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara, who pointed out that the service is available just across the border in the Niagara region of Southern Ontario. “It’s what’s become expected, and proves to be a disappointing challenge in Buffalo when the message ‘no car’ appears.”