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May 16, 2017 2:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Uber Could Be Rolling By Fourth Of July Weekend

May 16, 2017 3:55 PM

It may be possible to use a smartphone to hail a car using the Uber or Lyft apps in the Hamptons by this coming Fourth of July weekend, if state legislation passes that would force an earlier effective date to new state laws legalizing ride-sharing.

The original legislation, adopted last month, wouldn’t have allowed app-based ride-sharing companies to begin operating until July 9 at the earliest, because state laws typically have a 90-day latency period before they take effect. But a pair of upstate legislators have introduced a bill that would push the effective date to July 1 so that resort towns across the state could have phone hailing available for the July 4 holiday weekend.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.—who voted against the adopted ride-sharing legislation—said he expects the new legislation also will pass, also without his support. “There’s no evidence that the [State Department of Transportation] can get this up in running in 90 days, let alone a lesser time,” he said in a message on Tuesday.

Indeed, even the July 9 date had been in doubt in the weeks since the state adopted the landmark legislation, which will allow ride-sharing companies to contract with drivers outside of New York City for the first time. The law left the details of crafting licensing and driver-accountability regulations to the State DOT, and there has been substantial doubt about whether the administrative infrastructure could be in place by the time the law went into effect.

A spokesperson for Uber said this week that the company is preparing its fleet to hit the streets on July 9, if not earlier.

“We plan to be up and running as soon as possible—we have the July 9 date, and we want to be ready,” said Alix Anfang, Uber’s communications director for New York State. “Suffolk County is a big area for us, especially during that time of year. There are a lot of drunk driving accidents, and there is a lot of traffic. We’d like to create partnerships to encourage people to leave their cars in the city, which they can do if they know it’s going to be easy to get around.”

The company has been running radio ads in Suffolk County to recruit applicants to be drivers and has already signed on “thousands” of drivers, he said. Last month, the company said it already had a list of some 50,000 applicants for driver contracts statewide.

Each would-be driver will have to undergo a third-party background check, according to the state law, but other details, such as whether they will be required to be fingerprinted, are left to the DOT to decide and implement.

The main impediment to the ride-sharing companies in the state had been laws that did not allow for a company to provide blanket insurance to drivers, which Uber and Lyft do elsewhere to free part-time drivers from having to purchase expensive liability insurance.

The legislation was hailed by some as long overdue and criticized by others, like Mr. Thiele, because it took away the rights of small municipalities to impose their own requirements on ride-sharing drivers as they do on taxicabs.

Meanwhile, East Hampton Town, which had been seen as Uber’s ultimate foil since it adopted legislation that effectively blocked Uber’s previously New York City-based drivers from operating in the town, has introduced amendments to the town code that would prevent anyone from holding both a state ride-sharing license and a town taxi license. It also would mirror the state restrictions barring Uber and Lyft drivers from picking up rides other than through the mobile apps, or accepting cash payments, so that local police and code officers can enforce the state regulations if they see violations.

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Good. Southampton needs more competitive and clean options. Time for the cab companies to wake up and realize price gouging won't work forever.
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on May 17, 17 9:27 AM
2 members liked this comment
CLEAN is the word. Meters would work.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 17, 17 10:10 AM
50,000 drivers, July 1 start, etc is all good, particularly if it saves lives.
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. clueless.

By Amagansett Voter (62), Amagansett on May 17, 17 11:23 AM
1 member liked this comment
50,000 drivers, July 1 start, etc is all good, particularly if it saves lives.
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. clueless.

By Amagansett Voter (62), Amagansett on May 17, 17 11:35 AM
Uber and Lyft are needed....people rely on it. So glad the state stepped in to stop the local politicians from messing a good thing. Sorry, a little less DWI money for the coffers...
By The Real World (368), southampton on May 17, 17 12:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thiele is an absolute boob. No idea how he keeps getting elected. I have used uber dozens of times and have always been impressed. Local cab companies have had their way for far too long. I welcome uber as a choice.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on May 17, 17 1:21 PM
Political Fascism:

Political ideology that imposes strict social and economical measures as a method of empowering the government and stripping citizens of rights. This authoritative system of government is usually headed by an absolute dictator who keeps citizens suppressed via acts of violence and strict laws that govern the people.

Take out the acts of violence and substitute "absolute dictator" with EH Town and there you go....
By The Real World (368), southampton on May 18, 17 7:53 AM