Marche` Black & Max Wagner
(Buffalo, N.Y.) — Ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft, are expected to make their debut in Buffalo and other western New York communities by July, after state lawmakers passed a budget deal that now allows ride-hailing across the state.
Previously, the service was only allowed in New York City and Buffalo had been the largest city in the country where Uber and Lyft were unavailable.
Joe Lorego, majority leader of the Erie County Legislature, appeared on the Buffalo Review April 17 to discuss his efforts to bring ride-hailing to the Buffalo Niagara region.
“I think it’s great news, I’ve been pushing for it for several years now,” said Lorego.
Last year, the Erie County Legislature appropriated $100,000 for a public relations campaign designed to encourage support for Uber and Lyft.
“I think it’s going to have a huge economic impact on people who are looking to earn extra income or have that entrepreneurial spirit. I also thinks it’s going to have a huge impact on road safety and (reducing) DWI related accidents and fatalities,” said Lorigo.
He said he’s hopeful the service will be available by the July 4 holiday, when many alcohol related accidents occur.
Many in western New York have been starved for ride-haling and it leaves a lot of people to wonder, why did it take so long for this change?
Lorego said he felt the personal injury attorney lobby may have delayed the service’s availability, in addition to concerns about vetting potential Uber or Lyft drivers.
The current deal requires ride-hailing companies to provide insurance coverage, per ride, of at least $1.25 million.
Additionally, there was concern about how Uber and Lyft would accommodate those with disabilities.
“I recognize the needs of the disabled community and that they also have needs for reliable transportation other than what they are currently being offered. This is also an opportunity for people with disabilities and their own vehicle to also become Uber drivers,” said Lorego.
Recently, Uber received a lot of negative press after claims of sexual harassment at the company and video of Uber’s CEO berating a driver during a ride went viral.
However, Lorego said he didn’t think this negative coverage stalled the deal.
“Like any other business, you’re going to have some king of negativity,” he said. “There are bad cab drivers, there are bad Uber drivers and there are bad Lyft drivers and the good thing with Uber and Lyft is that customers are able to rate their drivers and when people start to give bad ratings, the company will take notice of it.”
Uber and lyft offer a “rate me” option that allows riders to give feedback about their experience, which the companies say enables them to improve service.
“Once we have this up and running, people will see what a positive effect it will have on the community and even push additional competition with our cab companies,” said Lorego.
At least one cab company has been working on an app to try and compete with Uber and Lyft.
* Will Fahlbeck contributed to this report.