Thursday, May 18, 2017

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Ridesharing opportunity launched in Kingston


Lyft Public Policy Manager Funsho Owolabi, left, meets with Ulster County Executive Mike Hein

KINGSTON – Industry leaders met with public officials and community stakeholders in Kingston Wednesday evening, celebrating the state’s approval of ridesharing for upstate communities.  The three-year bureaucratic struggle culminated with modified insurance regulations, incorporated by lawmakers within the state budget.

Starting July 4th weekend, passengers gain access to Transportation Network Companies – including Uber and Lyft – beyond New York City.

The downstate metropolitan area was granted exceptions to the ride-sharing ban, imposed three years ago.

"Ridesharing is an essential part of a growing modern economy," said County Executive Michael Hein. He met with representatives from Lyft on Wednesday. "We firmly believe that this will not only benefit and help growth our expanding tourism economy, but also become pivotal in ensuring safe and reliable transportation across Ulster County - which is as geographically large as Rhode Island - as well as the greater Hudson Valley."

State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) was involved in the discussions in Albany.

“We thought this was inherently unfair, why is there this caste system of transportation, where all the convenience and availability is in half of the state,” noted fellow Assemblyman James Skoufis (D, Woodbury). “For everyone else, in all the communities that we represent, we’re locked out. It made no sense.”  

“This [victory] was, in some ways, a seminal moment for the legislature, and state government,” Skoufis said, observing that his Uber and Lyft phone apps will work almost everywhere else in the industrialized world – except in upstate New York.

“People just want to be able to get around,” agreed Kingston Mayor Steven Noble, who has been working towards a more pedestrian-friendly city.   “There’s only so much I can do. I’m sorry, but my bus system is horrible; it needs to be improved, and I don’t have enough taxi drivers, to be able to have a cab service that works for everybody.”

Noble expressed excitement at the opportunities offered through Kingston ridesharing apps, for convenience, efficiency, and part-time employment.

“There’s obviously things that are frustrating, with the taxi industry in general. I love the disruption of that industry to make it more accessible,” maintained Abe Uchitelle, president of Dragon Search, an Uptown Internet marketing company. He called such ride-sharing apps sorely needed in the community.

Uber and Lyft together spent roughly $1 million lobbying Albany for the bill. Both offer nearly identical ride-sharing services, hailing livery transportation through GPS over a cellular smartphone network. A decentralized alternative named Swarm City will also launch this summer.

 


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