By Amanda Li, B.A., Junior Policy Associate
The idea of Uber was born on a snowy night in 2008, when Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp struggled to get a cab. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had reliable transportation available at the push of a button?
Uber has since spread to over 530 cities across the globe, transforming the way that urban transportation works. As Uber has grown in popularity, other ride-hailing apps like Lyft, Gett, Juno, and Curb have joined the rapidly expanding industry.
By providing affordable, reliable transportation, ride-hailing apps make the cities that they operate in more accessible. They help make trips to the airport, park, grocery store, doctor’s office and any other location you need to go, quick, easy, safe, and cheap. Not only do ride-hailing apps help connect people to where they need to be, but they also help boost local economies, creating jobs and increasing business for the ride-hailing industry overall.
Despite their rapid growth in cities worldwide over the last few years, the benefits of ride-hailing apps have not yet reached less urban communities, like those in upstate New York. In areas of New York with limited public transit, accessibility to places not within walking distance can be a major issue with significant health implications for those who cannot drive. For instance, a person without reliable means of getting to the doctor’s office may be more hesitant to schedule needed appointments or regular check-ups. Also, a lack of affordable transportation to grocery stores or farmers markets can contribute to poor diets lacking in healthy produce. Ride-hailing apps can potentially provide a solution.
Unfortunately, New York’s insurance laws have made it difficult for ride-hailing apps to expand beyond New York City. For over a year, Uber and Lyft have been in gridlock with insurance companies and taxi companies over a law to allow ride-hailing app companies to expand beyond NYC. During the last half of 2016, Uber and Lyft spent $1.8 million on lobbying expenses to unsuccessfully persuade the Legislature to pass the bill for ride-hailing apps in upstate New York.
But we may finally be seeing a long-awaited breakthrough in the gridlock. On Monday February 6, 2017, New York’s Senate voted to allow ride-hailing apps like Uber to operate across the entire state of New York. Though this is major step towards expanding ride-hailing apps across the state, there is still a hurdle to overcome. The bill does not yet have an Assembly sponsor, and there are important differences between the Senate’s bill and Cuomo’s proposal: an agreement must be reached before March 31st, the deadline for the state budget to be finalized.
Having access to ride-hailing apps like Uber helps people access places that are important for a happy, healthy life. Whether city, suburban, or rural, affordable and reliable transportation plays an important role in connecting communities and promoting well-being. DASH-NY hopes that the state will move towards bringing more transportation options to all communities across New York.