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Jun 20, 2017 1:51 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Gives Its Cops Teeth Ahead Of Uber Launch

Jun 20, 2017 3:34 PM

Ahead of next week’s formal launch of ride-sharing services statewide, East Hampton Town adopted a package of laws this week that will allow the town to enforce laws governing the thousands of drivers for Uber and Lyft that are expected to descend upon the Hamptons for the remainder of the summer.

The laws adopted unanimously by the Town Board on Thursday, June 15, also impose new parking restrictions on both taxis and ride-sharing drivers in Montauk to address problems with cabs clogging parking spots in the hamlet.

New state laws making it possible for ride-sharing companies to operate statewide for the first time will take effect on June 29, and Uber representatives have said that the company has signed on “thousands” of drivers in Suffolk County already. The Hamptons is certain to be the epicenter of the initial rollout, as the company’s mobile-phone app directs drivers to regions where demand is the highest.

Local officials have worried that the implementation of new service will rekindle some of the problems posed by the services’ drivers in 2014 in Montauk, when aggressive Uber drivers from New York City, where ride-sharing companies have been able to operate for several years, often ditched the company’s app-based model to battle with traditional taxis. Taxi drivers and police said the Uber drivers went beyond app-based rides to aggressively find customers, and also broke with accepted practices of waiting in line for fares and often approached would-be customers in person at train stations and outside popular night spots.

East Hampton Town set off a firestorm when it adopted new taxi laws in early 2015 that effectively barred the city-based Uber drivers from operating in the town and issued dozens of summonses to the drivers. The company paid the fines, shut down its app services in the town, and launched a publicity campaign deriding Supervisor Larry Cantwell and the town for robbing its residents and visitors of the service.

When state lawmakers began considering making ride-sharing services available statewide, Mr. Cantwell penned a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking that a number of limitations be put on the service if local governments were to be stripped of their ability to impose their own regulations. Most of the requests were ultimately written into the state law.

The legislation adopted last week requires any driver working in a transportation network company, or TNC, to comply with all state regulations for the services. That makes it possible for police and code enforcement officers to issue summonses to those drivers if they do not follow the state regulations.

“They must follow every provision of New York State law or they are in violation of our code,” Assistant Town Attorney NancyLynn Thiele told the Town Board on Thursday, June 15.

A driver will not be allowed to be both a town-licensed taxi driver and a state-licensed TNC driver.

The new state laws impose a broad array of limits on drivers for what the legislation calls TNCs, including that they may contact customers only through their assigned phone apps, may not accept cash payments for fares, and may not operate as both a taxi and a ride-sharing driver.

The state law also requires ride-sharing companies to conduct criminal background checks on all drivers and file them with the State Department of Motor Vehicles, though drivers will not have to be fingerprinted, as East Hampton Town now requires for taxi drivers.

The Suffolk County Legislature is considering a bill that would let the county opt out of the state ride-sharing legislation if the regulations are not tweaked to prevent low-level registered sex offenders from being drivers. The current legislation bars only Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from driving for TNCs, but allows those convicted of the lowest level, Level 1, to work as drivers if their convictions were more than seven years ago. There are bills pending in the State Legislature that would amend the new laws, and Suffolk County officials are considering a bill that would halt implementation of the ride-sharing service until the state statute is changed.

The new parking regulations bar taxi and TNC drivers from parking on any public street between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., and from parking for more than 15 minutes between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. They also ban parking in Montauk’s public lots at Kirk Park and on South Euclid Avenue.

Uber officials have said they expect the rollout of their services statewide to solve many of the issues caused by city-based drivers, as well as to lower prices for rides using the app.

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This is why we can't have nice things.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Jun 20, 17 2:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
What happens when the Uber drivers refuse to pay the fines? Will they be given sanctuary?
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jun 24, 17 8:23 AM
1 member liked this comment