Uber, Lyft are coming: What you need to know

ALBANY - Ride-sharing services will soon be coming to upstate and suburban New York.
 
Companies like Uber and Lyft will be able to begin expanding statewide in early July under the $153 billion state budget agreement struck late Friday, with final approval expected Sunday night.
 
The companies, which allow riders to summon a ride through a smartphone app, lobbied hard for statewide regulations and insurance-law changes that will make it easier for them to move in to cities like Rochester, Buffalo, Yonkers and beyond. 

So how soon will you be able to hail a ride?

Here's what you need to know:

When is ride-hailing coming?

The earliest possible date is July 8.

Why? The ride-hailing measure tucked into a state budget bill will take effect 90 days after it's approved.

The Assembly passed the bill Saturday afternoon; The Senate will vote Sunday night. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign it soon after.

But ...

It may depend where you live

Uber and Lyft both say they are currently determining their New York expansion strategies. It will depend in part on demand.

Lyft hasn't yet determined whether it will launch across the state all at once, or whether it will start in one area and gradually expand.

"When we enter a new market, we build up our driver supply," said Adrian Durbin, Lyft's director of policy communications. "So that's what we're going to be focused on as soon as the ink is dry, as well as making sure passengers know Lyft will be available in their area."

Josh Gold, Uber's New York policy manager, said determining where the service will launch first is "an ongoing process."

"We've seen lots of interest from New Yorkers throughout this state, which shows it could be possible to launch this year in the vast majority of this state, if not the entire state," Gold said.

Both companies already operate in New York City under the city's taxi laws, and they will continue to do so: The new law won't apply to the state's largest city.

Will trips be taxed?

Yes.

Riders will be charged a 4 percent state "assessment fee" on each trip, as well as a 2.5 percent surcharge to cover worker's compensation costs for drivers.

The revenue from the state assessment fee will go into the state's general fund.

That's a change from Cuomo's original proposal, which called for a 5.5 percent tax, with the state getting about three-quarters of the revenue and public transportation systems getting the rest.

Can local governments block ride-hailing?

Some will be able to.

The ride-hailing measure gives all counties outside New York City and the four largest cities (Buffalo, Rochester, Yonkers and Syracuse) the choice to block ride-hailing services from picking up passengers within their borders, if they so choose.

Many big-city mayors and county executives, however, have signaled support for ride-hailing, including Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo.

The opt-out provision was a compromise; Assembly Democrats had been pushing for local governments to have regulatory control over the industry.

Who can drive?

Ride-hailing drivers will have to be at least 19 years old to operate in New York.

Drivers will have to have a valid license and insurance, as well as pass a criminal background check.

They can't appear in the national sex-offender registry, and they will be disqualified if they have committed certain crimes in the past seven years, including fleeing a police officer.

The law will also require companies to check a potential driver's driving history before hiring them.

The companies will be required to have a zero-tolerance policy for drivers found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the job.

What now?

Now, the state Department of Motor Vehicles will begin crafting regulations to oversee the ride-hailing industry.

Among them: Rules that will govern the criminal background checks for drivers, which has been a point of contention with taxi companies that have pushed for ride-hailing drivers to have to submit to a fingerprint check.

The DMV will also set up a permitting process for ride-hailing companies and drivers. The agency has 90 days to get them in place.

 

 

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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