Uber Renews Push For Upstate Expansion

Nov 18, 2016

Credit Alexander Torrenegra/Wikimedia Commons

Uber operates in 47 states and New York City, but does not carry passengers upstate — and it would like to.

With the election season over and policymakers turning their attention to the issues they’ll focus on in 2017, the ridesharing company is going all out to convince state lawmakers to bring the app-controlled service beyond the five boroughs.

Uber spokesman Josh Gold…

“We set up a petition, we set up a social campaign, that’s just the beginning. I think we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure that the constituents of the North Country, of Albany, of Syracuse, of Rochester, of Buffalo have a voice in the capital,” said Gold.

The company also released a survey that says 80 percent of New Yorkers would support statewide regulations to allow ridesharing.

Last year, a proposal to regulate the industry failed to make it out of the state legislature. The conflict came down to language that would define liability insurance coverage for the service.

The debate goes back to June of 2015, when state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a decision that prohibits the expansion of ridesharing due to what his office characterized as lack of appropriate liability insurance.

In New York City, Uber operates under the city’s livery laws.

Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Kingston, who chairs the Insurance Committee, set out to provide a bill that would regulate ridesharing with Uber and other companies, like Lyft.

Cahill said in the last session the committee started with a bill that was drafted by the industry.

“And we promised that we would conduct studies and move forward with that bill as soon as we had some additional input. As we gathered that input over 18 months, we determined the bill that the industry sponsored needed some adjustments. So we made those adjustments and that was the bill that we wound up with in the middle of the last session and we moved that through the committees until the ridesharing companies themselves lobbied to kill the bill in the Codes Committee,” said Cahill.

Cahill says he wants to advance legislation that represents “a consensus view of stakeholders,” not just industry insiders. Cahill says it’s a myth that the bill was stalled in the Assembly “because of anybody other than them.”

“So now the question is can we move forward and find an area of common ground between the Senate version, sponsored by Jim Seward, and the version agreed to in our House,” said Cahill.

It’s possible that if ridesharing companies came to the Capital Region, they’d have to contend with regulatory oversight through the Capital District Transportation Authority.

Legislation passed last session allows CDTA to enter into agreements with area municipalities to construct one consistent set of rules and regulations for private taxi companies. It also allows CDTA to work with the cab companies to take comments, help implement improvements, and provide information to the public.

CDTA Marketing Director Jon Scherzer said they’d welcome ridesharing within a “menu of mobility options.” Scherzer said as ridesharing relates to the taxi cab industry, it’s up to CDTA to get the cabs “up to speed” with the app-based services.

“We will work them to help raise their game whether it’s a mobile application, whether its taxi meters, whether it’s other rules and regs to help them put out a better public face, we feel that there’s room for everybody,” said Scherzer.

With existing coalitions of public and private leaders hoping to bring the services upstate, expect the dialogue to continue when lawmakers return to Albany this January.