The Schenectady City Council on Tuesday night threw its support behind a push to allow ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to operate in upstate New York.
The council approved 5-2 a resolution of support for state legislation that would make it possible for the ride-sharing services to expand beyond just New York City.
The resolution argued that the services can reduce traffic, combat drunk driving and expand transportation options for local residents.
But Marion Porterfield and Vince Riggi both opposed the resolution. Porterfield said she was concerned about the uncertainty in the Legislature and low pay of the services’ drivers. Riggi said he didn’t want to create two different sets of rules: one for taxis and one for the ride-sharing services.
“I see this as we are looking to have two sets of rules governing public transportation for rides and I don’t think that will be fair,” Riggi said. “We have to either relax the rules for our taxi cabs or vice versa. Uber and Lyft will have to conform to our rules and I just don’t see that.”
John Polimeni, one of the resolution’s chief backers, said it was unfair that state lawmakers treated upstate cities as “second-class citizens,” allowing ride-sharing in New York while banning it in the rest of the state.
“It’s an important step for where this community is going,” he said. “Certainly when business people come into town, when tourists come into town, they expect to have these services.”
The resolution also urged state lawmakers to “consider appropriate security measures,” like insurance requirements, fingerprinting and background checks for drivers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for lawmakers to pass legislation that would expand the ride-sharing services to upstate cities, and lawmakers in both chambers have introduced bills that would do just that. But the issue has also been tied up with unrelated issues and was considered to be on the table for a special session that never happened.
Members of the business community in recent weeks have shown support for the ride-sharing programs.
“We bring people in from all across the country and everybody just assumes we have the ability to use some kind of ride-sharing service,” Galesi Group CEO David Buckio said. “People fly in and say, ‘I’ll make my own arrangements,’ but then they get to the train station or airport and don’t have a ride.”
The service also appeals to Saratoga Springs, which becomes a national destination during the summer horse racing season.
Todd Shimkus, CEO of the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, said he’s heard from members of the technology, hospitality and tourism sectors, as well as students and residents who would like more options to safely get to and from the race track, downtown and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, among other spots.
Concerns over insurance and security have turned legalizing ride-sharing upstate into a contentious issue. Advocates argue that New York isn’t the first state to have to face those questions.
“To many folks that have been in other places, they just can’t understand why we don’t have it here,” Shimkus said. “Everyone else has the same issues of personal security and insurance, and they figured out a way to make it happen.”