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Apr 11, 2017 6:02 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Newly Legal Uber Has 50,000 Drivers Ready To Roll, Thanks To New Statewide Agreement

New York State lawmakers this week adopted legislation that will pave the way for Uber and other ride-sharing companies to operate throughout New York State without having to comply with local licensing and regulation laws in individual municipalities.
Apr 11, 2017 6:02 PM

State lawmakers this week adopted legislation that will allow ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to start operating throughout New York State, and that rescinds the authority of local municipalities that have forced such companies to comply with their taxi licensing codes.

The law will not take effect for 90 days, but an Uber spokesperson said on Tuesday that the company already has a list of some 50,000 New Yorkers who want to be Uber drivers. Still, it’s unclear whether the state Department of Motor Vehicles will be able to set up the regulatory infrastructure to allow ride-sharing companies to operate in time for the summer season.

The legislation enacted this week, as part of the annual budget approval, will leave the regulation of ride-sharing companies to the DMV, but imposes many of the demands that East Hampton Town had requested of Governor Andrew Cuomo when talk of state legislation began.

The legislation expressly prohibits ride-sharing company drivers from picking up riders through “street hails” or by soliciting rides in any way other than through the mobile phone apps that they are based on. It also prohibits them from accepting cash payments for rides, or from operating a vehicle with a legal capacity of more than seven passengers—which allows for large SUVs but not for traditional-style vans.

All ride-sharing fares will include a 6.5-percent state tax, 4 percent of which will go into the state general fund to offset administrative costs, and 2.5 percent of which will go to the New York State Black Car Operators Injury Compensation Fund.

In a first in the state, the parent ride-sharing companies will have to perform criminal background checks, possibly including fingerprinting, for each driver and submit them to the state. The legislation lays out a laundry list of offenses that will disqualify a driver, including a DWI or reckless driving charge within the last three years, or any sex offense, homicide, class A felony or violent felony in the last seven years. If a driver is convicted of DWI, reckless driving or leaving the scene of an accident, his or her license will be revoked or suspended.

Local officials who had been fiercely critical of the state’s proposal to revoke local authority over ride sharing expressed lingering skepticism but said that they’ve found that the final product is better than the original proposals.

“There’s some things in here that are encouraging me to think the state was perhaps listening to us on some of this, but there’s also a lot of this that begs the question: What are they going to do to make sure these rules are being obeyed? Who is going to enforce it?” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who has been Uber’s number-one enemy since 2015, when the town imposed a regulation requiring all taxis to have their cars registered at East Hampton addresses, effectively barring the company’s then city-based drivers from operating here.

“How it all shakes out is going to be difficult to predict, and how we should proceed from here is going to take some thought,” the supervisor added.

Local municipalities will still be allowed to enforce traffic and parking restrictions on ride-sharing drivers, just as they can with taxis by creating no-idling areas and queuing lanes.

Alix Anfang, Uber’s communications director for New York State, said the company will spend the next three months completing the criminal background checks that will be required by the new state legislation for each driver and expects to be able to field a substantial force of drivers quickly.

“We see huge demand in Suffolk County in the summertime—people have been wanting to see Uber come to their communities there,” she said. “So that area will certainly be a priority for us.”

She also noted that now that the company can implement its business model in full, the Uber presence on the South Fork will be very different. “In the past, it’s been mostly New York City drivers who came out from the city, and the rates have been higher,” Ms. Anfang said. “This will be local people from the area who will be driving their personal vehicles and want access to flexible earning opportunities, and the rates will be lower. That will be the focus for us.”

The policies and allowances created in the legislation will take effect 90 days after the governor signs them, so the DMV could not start issuing licenses until mid-July at the earliest. It’s still unclear whether the entire process can be completed in time for Uber to begin operating in East Hampton Town during the season—though the company appears eager to try.

“Hey, New York—your Uber is arriving this summer!” Uber’s tri-state regional manager Josh Mohrer said in a statement released by the company on Monday. “Thank you to Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature for working hard on a compromise that will bring more transportation options to the Empire State. … We can’t wait to bring reliable, affordable transportation options to the entire state this summer.”

“The question is going to be how quickly the DMV is going to be able to implement things and turn around the licenses, and this whole process with background checks,” said State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. “There’s no substantial new staff that goes with this … so implementation will be interesting—and that’s one of the concerns. The towns already have these licensing mechanisms in place. The DMV is going to have to invent it from scratch in less than three months.”

“We have a lot of work to do,” Ms. Anfang acknowledged. “But we’re very excited.”

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ok...but how many local uber drivers are on deck? (I am all for Uber btw)
still wondering about the #'s who will drive out to profit, sleep in cars, then go home.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Apr 11, 17 8:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
I find most of your comments to be so strange, like you try to be so sarcastic and witty , it just comes off as bizarre.

why do you care if these hard working entrepreneurs sacrifice a night in there beds to earn a living. do you own a local motel ?
By Erin 27 E (1281), hampton bays on Apr 14, 17 12:55 AM
About time.
By Amagansett Voter (62), Amagansett on Apr 12, 17 9:05 AM