BUFFALO, New York — Brian Cook’s journey to Buffalo to cheer on Princeton’s basketball group within the NCAA Tournament was, for him, a journey again to an easier time, when hailing a experience meant standing on a nook and waving your arms to flag down a taxi.
“For a 19-year-old, that’s unknown,” stated Cook, who flew in from Chicago to see his brother play in Princeton’s first-round recreation towards Notre Dame. “I take Uber everywhere, always.”
Upstate New York, primarily all the pieces outdoors of the metropolitan New York City space, is Uber’s final frontier: the most important space within the continental U.S. the place app-based ride-hailing firms stay banned.
Many in such upstate cities as Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and Syracuse are hoping that is the yr that distinction ends, however they must persuade the state’s legislature first. Previous efforts have repeatedly foundered, below stress from the taxi business and lawmakers who say they need extra stringent laws.
“I can go to New York City, Philadelphia, DC, and I can utilize the app, but I can’t utilize it in my own city,” stated Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, considered one of 9 upstate mayors to not too long ago write to state leaders urging them to approve the growth.
Currently, Uber and Lyft are banned outdoors of the New York City space. Every state besides Alaska and New York now has statewide ride-hailing laws — although the service stays unavailable in lots of rural areas. Austin, Texas, is the nation’s largest metropolis with out Uber. The firm pulled out after native leaders required drivers to be fingerprinted.
New York’s determination on whether or not to permit ride-hailing statewide may come inside weeks. Supporters and upstate mayors again proposals from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Republican-led Senate however have considerations about laws within the Democrat-controlled Assembly. That invoice would authorize native communities to cross their very own laws on ride-hailing, and impose greater taxes and insurance coverage prices.
But Uber has confronted a spate of latest controversies, together with allegations that it routinely ignores sexual harassment, video footage of its CEO profanely berating a driver and most not too long ago, accusations that it used knowledge on its customers to evade and deceive authorities.
“The headlines about Uber are indicative of a company that does not understand its responsibility,” stated Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, a Democrat and the sponsor of the Assembly invoice, which he stated is honest to the corporate whereas guaranteeing protections for riders. “Uber has a lot of answering to do. And we need to be certain that we’re writing legislation for an industry and not one company.”
Taxi cab homeowners say lawmakers ought to delay ride-hailing laws due to the allegations towards Uber. They’ve lengthy argued that Uber and Lyft must be held to the identical requirements and laws as taxi cabs — and drivers must be fingerprinted and subjected to an unbiased background examine.
“This shouldn’t be a matter of just saying, ’Hey, come on in,’” stated John Tomassi, president of the Upstate Transportation Association.
Uber is betting that March Madness would possibly assist tip the controversy in its favor. Buffalo is internet hosting early spherical match video games this yr, the newest try by native leaders to showcase a metropolis working to enhance its picture and reverse many years of inhabitants loss and financial stagnation.
People within the metropolis for the video games who open their smartphone’s app for Uber – maybe not understanding it’s banned – will obtain a message urging them to tweet their frustrations and inform lawmakers to authorize the growth.
“This is a really exciting time in Buffalo,” stated state Sen. Chris Jacobs, a Republican from the town who argues that ride-hailing will lower drunken driving whereas offering a brand new transportation possibility for the aged and disabled. “There’s a reason why this is so successful elsewhere. It’s really an embarrassment frankly that we haven’t resolved this.”
Terry Tomlinson, a West Virginia fan in Buffalo for the Mountaineers’ victory over Bucknell, stated Uber could be an excellent addition, particularly at occasions just like the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s great for young people that are going out and going to have too many.” –David Klepper and Mike Haim
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Klepper reported from Albany, New York.