Cuomo Proposes Statewide Service for Ride-Sharing Companies

Keep up with the latest developments and legal issues in the telecommunications and emerging technology sectors, with exclusive access to a comprehensive collection of telecommunications law news,...

By Gerald B. Silverman

Uber Technologies, Lyft and other ride-sharing companies could operate under statutory authority throughout New York—including upstate, where they are now banned—under a proposal announced Jan. 9 by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The proposal, which would require legislative approval, would establish a regulatory framework for ride-sharing that includes background checks for drivers and oversight by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Ride-sharing is bringing transportation into the 21st century and we are committed to ensuring that it becomes a reality statewide,” Cuomo (D) said in a statement. “It provides economic opportunity and a cost-effective alternative to transportation, and we must ensure that all residents outside of New York City have access to its benefits.”

Uber and Lyft operate in New York City under local laws. But their inability under state law to obtain group insurance has prevented them from operating in upstate regions.

The state Legislature considered a bill ( A. 6090, S. 4280) to permit and regulate ride-sharing last year but the measure failed to pass either house. A new bill ( S. 240) was introduced by the state Senate Insurance Committee chairman Jan. 4.

“We are grateful for Gov. Cuomo’s leadership today and look forward to working with the Legislature in the weeks ahead to bring ride-sharing to all of New York state,” Adrian Durbin, Lyft’s director of communications, said in a statement.

37 Other States

“We believe the time has come for New York to join the 37 other states that have passed comprehensive ride-sharing legislation,” Durbin said. New York is the only state with “an affirmative statewide prohibition” against ride-sharing, he said.The newly formed Upstate Transportation Association, which represents taxi and livery companies, is urging the state to require fingerprint background checks, medical certifications and a full driving record review for all Uber and Lyft drivers. It also wants the state to bar so-called surge pricing by ride-sharing companies and driverless cars.

“Ride-sharing can only exist statewide if Uber and Lyft operate upstate under the same safety and insurance regulations that currently protect riders in New York City,” John Tomassi, the association’s president, said in a statement.

“Gov. Cuomo made it clear today that automation has taken American jobs away, and that is why New York should ban driverless cars for at least 50 years as part of any ride-sharing legislation,” he said.

Special Treatment

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance said Cuomo was giving ride-sharing companies special treatment, instead of subjecting them to the same requirements as the taxi industry.

“In New York City, we see every single sector of drivers working longer for less in Uber’s race to the bottom,” Bhairavi Desai, the alliance’s executive director, said in a statement. “By championing Uber and not the workers, the governor is telling Uber drivers and taxi drivers that they’re second-class citizens who don’t deserve a living wage or rights on the job.”

Assemblyman Kevin A. Cahill (D), chairman of the Assembly Insurance Committee, said state legislation may not be needed if local governments decide on their own to authorize and regulate ride-sharing.

“New York City has become a great example of how ride-hailing services can work at the local level without new state legislation,” Cahill said in a statement. “The system in place is a good one. A similar operation could be implemented in many jurisdictions in upstate New York and Long Island at any time under current laws and regulations.”

Regulatory Framework

Under Cuomo’s proposal, a uniform statewide regulatory framework would be created that:

  •  establishes consumer protections to ensure that passengers receive information like driver identification and fare estimates prior to a ride;
  •  requires ride-sharing companies and/or their drivers to obtain and maintain insurance coverages that are double current auto insurance limits in upstate New York;
  •  establishes a mechanism to provide ride-share drivers with workers’ compensation coverage; and
  •  applies anti-discrimination laws to protect passengers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gerald B. Silverman in Albany, N.Y. at gsilverman@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Tech & Telecom on Bloomberg Law