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Editorial: State Legislature needs to take the steps that will expand ride-sharing to upstate

Visitors to Buffalo and the rest of upstate are absolutely correct in saying that the city is building an image as “prehistoric” because it does not have ride-sharing services available.

Uber is available under special arrangement in New York City. But that’s it. Because the State Legislature has not seen fit to approve ride-sharing services, Uber, Lyft and similar alternatives are not available elsewhere in the state.

In other words, political considerations are blocking a robust, 21st century travel option that other parts of the country and world enjoy. It is hurting Buffalo’s image.

As a recent News article stated, people are talking – and not in a good way. Officials, including HarborCenter President Michael M. Gilbert and Hyatt Regency Buffalo owner Paul L. Snyder, have heard complaints from event attendees and hotel guests.

These visitors expect to be able to whip out their smartphones, tap on a ride-sharing app and have a car arrive quickly. It’s that simple in most other parts of the country. New York’s second-largest city ought to work the same way.

Legislation to allow ride-sharing has been held up in the Assembly after passing the State Senate.

The taxi industry, for obvious reasons, is fighting ride-sharing in New York State. While Uber operates in New York City, opponents added burdensome regulations that mean it is operating as a commercial livery service with full-time licensed and insured drivers.

The taxi industry sees real ride-sharing as potentially severely damaging to employment, including the thousand taxi jobs in the Buffalo area for drivers, dispatchers and mechanics.

Uber has touted flexible, part-time job opportunities with claims that nearly 500 jobs would be created in Buffalo during the first year alone, along with more than 13,000 statewide.

Regardless of the numbers, the taxi industry should not be able to ban, at the expense of consumers, legitimate competition. Technology is always creating new jobs while making others obsolete.

The key is legitimate competition. Taxi and ride-sharing companies should have to follow the same rules on safety, insurance and checks on drivers. And the rules should be to protect consumers, not the taxi industry.

State legislators should listen to the complaints of those who want new ride options, and work with taxi and ride-sharing companies to make it happen as soon as possible.

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