At last, Uber drives (legally) onto Long Island

Taken for a ride: New state regulations will allow ridesharing platforms like Uber to operate legally on Long Island.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Uber can finally come to Long Island.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed new legislation formalizing regulations that will allow for the implementation of “ridesharing” services across New York State. Currently, tech-based ridesharing platforms like Uber and Lyft, both based in San Francisco and both providing services to hundreds of towns and cities across the country, are restricted by New York law to operating within New York City only.

But that’s set to change June 29, when new regulations affecting multiple state agencies kick in, allowing ridesharing services to roll out across the Empire State.

Calling it a “matter of fairness,” Cuomo said Tuesday that updating New York law to permit statewide ridesharing services would create “new economic opportunity and innovation” – and noted he was expediting the process by 10 full days to make sure ridesharing options were available over the beer-soaked Fourth of July holiday weekend.

“This framework provides for a fair, safe and comprehensive ridesharing system that will benefit communities in every corner of the state,” the governor added.

For the benefit of passengers, the new regulations require that a fare or estimated fare be provided by the ridesharing app before the ride begins. The app must also display a photo of the driver, the vehicle’s license plate number and its make, model and color.

Vehicles must also display a “prominent emblem” on the passenger side of their front windshield to verify the ridesharing company, according to the governor’s office.

The New York Department of Motor Vehicles, meanwhile, has been instructed to establish complaint procedures specific to ridesharing-related license violations, while ridesharing companies must establish an indigenous New York process for consumer complaints.

Andrew Cuomo: Easy rider.

Other requirements for ridesharing companies, according to the new state regulations, include an official application process with a $100,000 application fee – $90,000 will be refunded if the company isn’t approved, the governor’s office said – and an annual $60,000 renewal fee.

Ridesharing companies must also provide vehicle liability insurance for up to $1.25 million whenever a passenger is aboard, as well as workers compensation coverage for drivers. They’re also required to adopt anti-discrimination policies for all passengers – including those with disabilities – with the state Transportation Network Company Accessibility Task Force keeping a close watch.

Ridesharing drivers also face a slew of new regulations, including mandatory criminal background checks and registration with the DMV’s License Event Notification System, which tracks and reports traffic-ticket convictions, suspensions, revocations and other driver’s license-related events.

Cuomo actually hit the gas on statewide ridesharing when he announced the FY2018 State Budget in January of this year; the annual budget authorized Uber and its ilk to operate throughout the state beginning later this summer. But by signing the legislation this week, the governor sped up the process to have it in place for Independence Day, traditionally a big holiday for driving-while-intoxicated-related incidents.

The arrival of statewide ridesharing is a victory for New Yorkers for Ridesharing, a coalition of thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations that pressured Albany to legalize ridesharing across the state to create economic opportunity and fight drunk driving.

While Lyft et al were already operating legally in NYC, new ridesharing options are coming to the Big Apple also: On Wednesday, the ridesharing app Via and the taxi-hail app Curb announced they were teaming up to bring new shared-ride options to yellow taxis operating in the city, complete with reduced booking fees and discounted fares.