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Ride sharing services in New York may come even sooner

Posted by Karen DeWitt on

The state is one step closer to having ride-hailing services available before the Fourth of July, now that the state Senate has passed a bill to speed up when companies like Uber and Lyft will be allowed to operate outside of New York City.

When state lawmakers agreed to allow companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in upstate New York and on Long Island as part of the budget, they thought that they would pass the legislation on by April 1, the start of the new fiscal year.  

Traditionally, there’s a 90 day grace period before a law actually takes effect. So the ride-hailing services would, in theory, be able to start offering passengers rides on July 1st.

But there was one problem. The budget was late and didn’t pass until April 9th, so the new law allowing the ride-hailing services to begin won’t take effect until July 9th.

Some legislators, including many in Western New York,  got pushback from constituents, as well as the companies, to amend the bill to allow it to take effect earlier.

The Senate approved a measure to allow the ride-hailing services to be as early as June 29th.  Senator Mike Razenhofer, a Republican from the Buffalo area, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

“Today’s legislation will bring ridesharing in New York that much closer,” Razenhofer said. ”

Senator Tim Kennedy, a Democrat who is also from the Buffalo region, argues that having ride-hailing services available during the busy July 4th long holiday weekend could even cut down on drunken driving and potentially save lives.

“If we can prevent even one individual from getting behind the wheel of his or her car and prevent even one disaster,” said Kennedy. “Then this bill is well worth it.”

Supporters, as well as the companies, claim that the services reduce drunken driving, but there has been no solid evidence to back up that claim.

The measure was approved 60-0.

The bill is expected to pass the Assembly before Memorial Day. It’s sponsored by Hudson Valley Assemblyman, Democrat Kevin Cahill. Governor Cuomo was a supporter of the initial legislation to expand ride-hailing outside of New York City and is expected to sign the measure once it’s approved in both houses.

A statement from Uber says the company plans to “launch” some of its services as early as  June 29th, saying they have been “waiting years to  bring ridesharing services to New York State.”

The rest of the original law won’t change, though. Prospective Drivers will be subject to a criminal background check, and taxes will be charged to riders at a  rate of 6.5 percent per transaction.

Cities or counties with more than 100,000 people can opt out of allowing the ride-hailing companies to operate in their municipalities, but so far no one has said they want to ban the service. A recent poll found that 75 percent of the public want ride-hailing to begin, and soon. 

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