Uber, Lyft, and similar transportation network companies (TNCs) are currently allowed to operate in New York City, but they aren’t permitted elsewhere in the state. That may soon change.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal seeks to authorize TNCs to “operate outside the City of New York and throughout the State, subject to a 5.5 percent tax.” The governor introduced the idea of bringing these services to the rest of the state in his State of the State Address, saying pithily that Commissioner Howard Zemsky told him, “Pass Uber so I can get off this camel.”
The administration delves deeper into the issue in the written State of the State: “The current limitation on the availability of ridesharing services has meant that millions of New Yorkers are not only missing out on an alternative form of transportation, but thousands more are being prevented from pursuing new flexible job opportunities as rideshare drivers.” To rectify the situation, the governor proposes expanding the availability of TNCs throughout the state and “establishing a uniform statewide regulatory framework,” which the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) would oversee.
Under the administration’s proposal, the DMV would handle the licensing and oversight of rideshare companies and would have “broad auditing powers.” The state also wants to:
- Establish “minimum standards for rideshare companies to vet their drivers including requiring background checks [and] explicitly disqualifying people with certain convictions from driving”
- Set “necessary consumer protections that ensure passengers receive information, such as driver identification”
- Require rideshare companies and/or drivers to “obtain and maintain insurance coverages that are double the current auto insurance limits in upstate New York and have a limit of at least one million dollars of coverage while a rideshare vehicle is on the way to pick up a passenger and while transporting a passenger”
- Establish “the first of its kind mechanism to provide rideshare drivers workers’ compensation coverage”
- Mandate that “rideshare companies adopt a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy”
- Apply “anti-discrimination requirements”
- Create a task force “to review, study and make recommendations regarding accessibility needs”
Proponents of allowing Uber to operate throughout the state — and there are many of them — have a list of reasons why it would be a smart policy; for example, TNCs could reduce incidences of drunk driving and increase employment. Opponents fear the effects Uber, Lyft, and similar companies could have on
Uber and Lyft may balk if the state of New York mandates fingerprinting for their drivers, although drivers are fingerprinted in New York City. The companies pulled out of Austin last May when the Texas city imposed a fingerprinting requirement, and they threatened to leave Chicago when a similar requirement was under discussion there (Chicago dropped it). They have also fought against fingerprinting in Maryland, arguing that their private systems are more accurate and less discriminatory than fingerprinting. Gov. Cuomo hasn’t commented on fingerprinting.
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