The Schenectady County Legislature has added its voice to those calling for companies like Uber and Lyft to be permitted to operate in upstate New York.
The Legislature last week unanimously adopted a resolution urging Albany lawmakers to authorize ride-sharing operations outside New York City. Many other communities across upstate have passed similar measures in recent months.
The request is being made as the state Legislature comes closer to deciding whether to allow upstate ride-sharing — something expected to happen during the current legislative session.
“Residents of Schenectady County and all of upstate New York should have the same consumer options as downstate residents,” said Legislator Holly Vellano, C-Rotterdam, who sponsored the resolution.
The operators of Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady back the concept, and county officials believe access to ride-sharing services would aid the county’s efforts to attract more visitors to visit the Rush Street casino, downtown restaurants, Proctors and other destinations. The Schenectady City Council earlier approved a resolution of support similar to the county’s.
Ride-sharing differs from taxi service in that ride-sharing allows users to use smartphone applications to summon a vehicle and see information on the driver, his company rating and the cost of their ride before they order the vehicle. It is currently allowed in New York City, but not upstate.
“Ride-sharing is an absolute necessity to accommodate our visitors and allow them to experience the many things our county has to offer safety,” said Legislator Jeff McDonald, D-Schenectady, chairman of the new county Convention and Visitors Bureau.
With a week and a half left before the state’s April 1 budget deadline, the state Assembly and Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have not yet reached agreement on legislation, despite Cuomo’s support for the concept and the backing of many Assembly members, including Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam.
Uber, in particular, has also launched an extensive advertising and public-relations campaign aimed at winning public support. On Monday, Uber said 20,000 low-income families in Albany, Schenectady and Troy who don’t have cars would benefit. “Uber can be an important complement to existing public transit options in cities across New York state,” said Josh Mohrer, Uber’s manager for upstate New York.
But Uber has also faced criticism across the country for trying to avoid local regulation; the corporation has also faced charges of sexism and other improprieties. The company president abruptly resigned last week.
On Monday, Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, predicted that ride-sharing would be left to the final phase of budget negotiations. Fahy said she supports ride-sharing, but she wants the legislation to include consumer protections like background checks for drivers and specific insurance requirements for operators.
Polls have shown strong public support for upstate ride-sharing.