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Another Voice: State lawmakers must find a way to restore ride-sharing to New York

By Chad Snowden

For 11 years, I served as an Army civil affairs specialist. When I returned from overseas, I came home to upstate New York to join my family. I was raised in Rochester, but luckily there was a special operations position open in Buffalo, allowing me to come back to the area and be closer to my kids.

One day, I noticed an advertisement to become a driver in my community while using my own car for a new company called Lyft. While continuing my work in the Army, I needed to create an additional income on a flexible schedule to support my family. Lyft would allow me to drive when I had the time, and driving around in my community would help me to rediscover my home. I jumped at the opportunity.

I can’t overstate the difference it made in my life. Ride-sharing became an easy way for me to make some extra money, even with my complicated schedule. I drove when I could, and I learned much from riders about life and culture in Buffalo.

There are so many hidden gems here – festivals, parks and bars – in addition to the things we all already love, like the Bills and Sabres. I got to meet many new people from right in my own neighborhood. Then last summer Lyft’s operations were cut short – and I was forced to stop driving.

This week, state legislators are holding roundtables in New York City and Albany about what ride-sharing would mean for New Yorkers. I urge them to find a way to bring ride-sharing back to Buffalo with haste.

My short time driving for Lyft really showed me some of the challenges people have getting around. Most of the traditional cab services tend to be concentrated in the city centers, and not in the suburbs where many people live. Wait times for cabs can be very long, and you never know when, or if, they are going to show up.

Many times when I was driving, I picked people up from bars or restaurants after a night out on the town. They said that without me they would have probably just driven home after drinking. I once helped a woman get home safely from a compromising situation. Because of the ease and transparency of the Lyft application, she knew where I was coming from and exactly when I’d arrive. Because I’d gone through a background check and had a clean driving record for years, my riders could feel comfortable that I’d take them around safely. They could see my photo and ratings from past riders – adding another level of security.

Buffalo needs more options, not fewer, for getting around town while providing people with ways to earn supplemental income. I have just started school at the University at Buffalo, thanks to the GI Bill. I would love to have Lyft here now, so I could fit driving into my busy schedule and help make the bills each month a little lighter.

Chad Snowden, of Buffalo, is a former Army civil affairs specialist.