Uber, Lyft Launch Service in Communities Across State of New York

Prior to today, ride-sharing services have been allowed to operate only in New York City.

by Gordon Block, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. / June 29, 2017

(TNS) -- WATERTOWN — A little bit of downtime this winter gave Edward A. Ward II an idea: He wanted to drive for Uber.

“I’m hoping it’s a little extra income and something I can do when I want to,” he said.

After months of waiting, this past week Mr. Ward got his packet, which featured the Uber sticker he’ll put on the windshield of his freshly cleaned 2011 Honda Pilot.

He’ll be one of thousands of drivers across New York state who will start driving at 12:01 a.m. today, using popular ride-sharing applications like Uber and Lyft.

Beyond the extra money, Mr. Ward said the opportunity to be a driver was a chance to help others avoid charges like driving while intoxicated, which he was charged with when he was younger.

“I think I owe the public this so nobody gets in trouble with DWIs,” he said.

Mr. Ward said he cleared a background check with Uber as the charge was more than 10 years ago.

As services begin their operations today, one key destination will be initially unavailable for rides: Fort Drum.

“After we launch we will work with Fort Drum to provide affordable, reliable transportation options to and from, as we’ve done in other states,” said an Uber spokesperson.

A Lyft spokesperson said the company had “been collaborating with government and other officials in preparation for launch” and set up agreements with airports in Syracuse and Rochester.

“We’re in active discussions with other airports and venues to reach agreements,” the Lyft spokesperson said.

Prior to today, ride-sharing services have been allowed to operate only in New York City. The upstate ride-sharing bill was included in the 2017-18 state budget, and it includes a 4-percent tax on rides and requires that prospective drivers undergo background checks.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill at the beginning of June allowing a more rapid introduction of the service in the area.

The expansion was supported by State Sens. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome.

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, has told the Times she was not sure ride-sharing services would be useful in the rural north country, considering a significantly lower customer base.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles said ride-sharing apps provide the fare or estimated fare to the customer before the ride begins. It also requires applications to show a photo of the driver, the make, model and color of their vehicle and its license plate number. Vehicles used by the services must display a prominent emblem denoting the company the driver works for.

Companies are required to adopt anti-discrimination policies for all passengers, including those with disabilities. They are also required to provide vehicle liability insurance for $1.25 million whenever a passenger is being driven and provide workers compensation coverage for their drivers.

Both of the ride-sharing applications can be downloaded for free on mobile devices through the Google Play and Apple App Store.

©2017 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.