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Editorial: Legislature needs to settle its objections and allow upstate another travel option

Now Kim Pegula is in the mix.

Normally reluctant to insert herself into the political fray, she is speaking out in favor of ride-hailing. Good for her.

Kim Pegula is the co-owner, with her husband, Terry, of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres. Their customers make up a chunk of visitors to the area, putting them in a position to understand the importance of ride-hailing services. So when she says that not having the services is “holding us back as an area,” state lawmakers should listen, closely.

Buffalo is on the upswing with its downtown resurgence and revitalized waterfront that attract thousands and thousands of visitors throughout the year. Yet, we remain the largest city in the United States without Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services that enable customers to use a smartphones app to quickly summon a car.

Ride-hailing is part of the 21st century culture. It’s is available in 47 other states and New York City.
The State Senate has passed legislation to allow ride-hailing, but it has been held up in the Assembly. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Senate are pushing for a ride-hailing measure if the Legislature returns for a special session before Dec. 31.

It is time the rest of New York State joined the crowd. Members of the Democratic-controlled Assembly must stand up against the taxi industry’s efforts to thwart ride-hailing services. The Legislature needs to craft a compromise that is fair to both ride-hailing and taxi services as well as safe for riders.

Last month, HarborCenter President Michael M. Gilbert and Hyatt Regency Buffalo owner Paul L. Snyder spoke out about the lasting bad impression not having ride-hailing services here has left on event attendees and hotel guests.

Patrick J. Kaler, president of the tourism agency Visit Buffalo Niagara, knows all too well the disadvantage of not having Uber or Lyft. It makes drawing visitors that much more challenging. He noted that despite the city’s top-notch efforts during the National Hockey League draft in June, Buffalo still got slammed on social media.

Taxis and ride-hailing services can co-exist in Buffalo. It happens in other places. The competition will force taxi companies to make adjustments to remain competitive, but that’s the nature of business in America. This needs to get done.

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