The Uber and Lyft ride-hailing services will begin operating on Thursday (6/29/17) in upstate New York and on Long Island, a move that officials say will provide work for thousands of drivers and reduce alcohol-related road accidents.
The ride-hailing apps should become available for those regions exactly at 12:01 a.m. under legislation approved by state lawmakers and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier in the month. The original measure called for the services to begin upstate and on Long Island on July 9, but Cuomo and the Legislature worked out a deal to push up the start to just before the busy Fourth of July holiday.
The two ride-hailing apps had been limited to picking up passengers in New York City until lawmakers voted this year to permit the expansion.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles said more than 20,000 drivers are expected to provide rides for Uber and Lyft. The agency, whose duties include regulating ride-hailing companies, said that's the number of drivers who filed information with the DMV to become drivers for the two apps. All those drivers are either on Long Island or in upstate New York, DMV officials said.
Buffalo, the state's second-largest city, had been one of the largest cities in the country without access to Uber or Lyft. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown joined Erie County District Attorney John Flynn and local law enforcement leaders to praise the arrival of Uber and Lyft.
"Anything that we can do to produce more jobs, to produce more employment opportunities and circulate more dollars into our economy, benefits the economic development and the economy of Buffalo and western New York," Brown said.
Police officials said giving people another option to taxis will cut down on the number of drivers who get behind the wheel after drinking.
"If ride-sharing can reduce the number of DWI arrests and alcohol-related crashes, then all this effort was worth it," said Timothy Howard, sheriff for Erie County, which includes the city of Buffalo.