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Free Minds & Free Markets

New York's Dumb War on Uber

It’s time for policymakers in Albany to bring ridesharing to all New Yorkers.

"Uber is one of these great inventions, startups, of this new economy and it's taking off like fire to dry grass and it's giving people jobs. I don't think the government should be in the business of trying to restrict job growth."

This quote came from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo back in July 2015. Today, a year and a half later, New York's state government still does not allow ridesharing services to operate in upstate New York. This inability to adapt to new business models leaves millions of New Yorkers with fewer transportation options and work opportunities.

In November 2015, Uber estimated that expanding ridesharing across the state would create 13,000 jobs. If anything, this estimate is too low. Uber has 30,000 active drivers in Pennsylvania, a state with a similar population to New York's when excluding New York City.

Admittedly, most of these jobs would be part-time, as half of Uber drivers work on the platform for under 10 hours a week. Some critics of ridesharing's business model worry about part-time work--but flexible work is a feature, not a bug. Because drivers set their own schedules and use their own cars, a wide array of people benefit. Everyone from single caregivers and full-time drivers to college students and retirees can earn additional income by partnering with ridesharing companies.

New Yorkers realize these diverse benefits even if some of their elected representatives do not. Earlier this year, a Siena College poll found that "at least two-thirds of voters from every [New York] region and every [political] party support legislation to allow ridesharing companies such as Uber to operate in their areas." Overall, support for legalized ridesharing was 80 percent. Additionally, elected officials from cities across upstate New York recently sent a letter urging state policymakers in Albany to allow these services to expand. Even with support from the governor, the public, and influential mayors, attempts to expand access to ridesharing continually fail.

The ridesharing fight will continue in Albany during the 2017 legislative session. This upcoming legislative debate will center around background checks for ridesharing drivers.
Uber and Lyft currently use name-based background checks to screen potential drivers. While ridesharing's safety record has shown that this approach works, some insist on mandating fingerprint background checks for drivers as a condition for state-wide expansion.

Ridesharing companies have been through this fight before. Uber and Lyft both famously left Austin, Texas, after the city required fingerprinting. Alternatively, after a long debate, Maryland recently declined to mandate fingerprinting when the state's Public Service Commission ruled that the name-based background checks were just as effective.

If New York insists on fingerprint background checks, then it would become the first state to require them. This would be a mistake because, even though fingerprint background checks sound secure, they are unnecessary, ineffective, and discriminatory when used for job screening purposes instead of for law enforcement purposes.

Fingerprinting leads to otherwise qualified and safe drivers being denied work opportunities. If someone is arrested but then found not guilty or never charged with a crime, that information would need to be updated by law enforcement for fingerprint background checks to be effective. Yet this follow-up step is often overlooked, which leads to discriminatory results. The Urban League, NAACP, and National Black Caucus of State Legislators all oppose fingerprinting requirements for this reason.

Fingerprint background checks are only as effective as the databases of fingerprints that they pull from. In Maryland, certain traffic violations—including DUIs and reckless driving incidents—would not show up through fingerprint background checks. Name-based background checks avoid this failure by querying thousands of courthouse and law enforcement databases to find relevant records.

Though it is true that some localities, including New York City, require fingerprint background checks for for-hire vehicle drivers, that is not an argument to extend these requirements to ridesharing across the state. Instead, the ample evidence in support of more effective—and less discriminatory—alternatives to fingerprinting should lead to taxi and livery drivers being allowed to use name-based checks.

Besides Austin, Buffalo is the largest U.S. city without Uber. Residents of Binghamton, Rochester, Albany, Syracuse, and the rest of upstate New York are all similarly left with fewer transportation options and work opportunities because of political inaction. Misguided concerns over fingerprinting are no excuse. It's 2017, and that means it is long past time for Empire State policymakers to bring ridesharing to all New Yorkers.

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  • UnCivilServant||

    cwburfle says:
    Just curious, do the drivers of these ride hailing services have class E licenses?
    westernadk says:
    No, but they should have them, along with commercial insurance, fingerprints, criminal background checks and compliance with all local laws – just like local cab companies.
    But Governor Dark Force is backing the California billionaires who want play on the field they built, – no class e licenses, no commercial insurance, no fingerprint and background checks. no compliance with local laws. Upstate cab companies – get lost. Oh what money can buy!
    UnCivilServant says:
    Or, you could always reduce the cab company requirements to those to drive for a ride hailing service. There are three reasons people want an alternative to the cab cartels – price, service, and availability. The pointlessly overblown requirements placed upon the drivers and the artificial limits in supply placed upon the providers provide no ability or incentive for the cab companies to meet those customer demands. Shackling alternatives to the same source of the problems with the cab companies is not the answer, as it will simply result in more of the same disaster.
    Liberate the cab companies if you want them to be able to compete with ride hailing services. Plus, it will cost everyone less, the taxpayer, the rider, the provider. Win, win, win.

    You losers appear to be corrupting my arguments with the local progs.

  • Volren||

    But...but then no one will be qualified D:

  • UnCivilServant||

    Shockingly, no one responded to my proposal.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It's because it is stupid. I don't think anyone should be allowed to exchange money for anything unless both parties have, fingerprints, a license, blood work, heart exam, signed loyalty pledge, vow of poverty, std testing, eye exam, HS Diploma, GED, and auto insurance approved by the Attorney General of each state one intends on exchanging money in.

    Without these simple and common sense requirements, all people are at the whim of rapists and scoundrels out for their lucre.

  • ||

    Guaranteed those people talking about licensing and fingerprints and all that bullshit use Uber on the regular.

  • ant1sthenes||

    If we're talking about any job where a person is just doing for pay what anyone can do for himself or a friend for free, then any sort of special licensing or other restriction is either a money-grab by the state or cronyism by people already in the industry. Money changing hands doesn't make work more difficult or dangerous or threatening to public health and safety.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Some critics of ridesharing's business model worry about part-time work

    I wonder if these critics know any normal people. There are many of us hoi polloi who are happy to get opportunities to put in a few hours at a convenient time and collect a few extra bucks. You know, to pay bills and such.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    You know, to pay bills and such.

    Check out Richie Rich over here! "Ohhh, I pay my bills." Eff off with that noise! You one-percenters are ruining this country.

  • Raven Nation||

    Didn't Pelosi celebrate that the ACA ended "job lock" and so freed people to have more flexible employment options?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Governor Cuomo, thank you for saving me from the criminal reprobates who rideshare. Excuse me while I call a local cab service, which surely only hires the best and brightest New York has to offer.

  • See Double You||

    I hear those cab medallions magically keep the rapists away.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    How many cabs are there in Albany, or Schenectady, or Saratoga?

    I suspect every one of those places (not to mention hicksvilles like Fort Edward) would benefit immensely from an expansion of transit options.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Not enough. We have maybe three providers, and they're shite.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    You losers appear to be corrupting my arguments with the local progs.

    We're insidious. That's how libertarianism attained its death grip on the world.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    The Libertarian Moment came suddenly, and without warning.

  • UnCivilServant||

    That was a truck. Luckily the driver was Lithuanian.

  • Jerryskids||

    As always, it sounds so simple when you reduce it to efficiency in achieving stated goals. More competion and less regulation results in cheaper and better options for consumers and more business opportunities for entrepreneurs.

    But what about the regulators' fat paychecks and greased palms and the massive throbbing erections from bossing people around? What about the taxi cab companies' easy money from not having to compete for profits by offering quality service at a fare price? What about the politicians' easy campaigning on promises to "do something" to fix the problems they're busting their asses to create just so they can elected by promising to fix them? Where are all the worthless shiftless lazy-ass retarded nephews and brothers-in-law and cousins and neighbors and friends going to get easy government jobs if you keep your mitts off the free market? What about all the lobbyists and activists and special interests like the insurance companies that have figured out how to leech off the system?

    Not so simple when you consider all the real goals of the system, is it?

  • Mainer2||

    And just to really make you feel better, those lazy idiot nephews and cousins and lobbyists and activists are all part of the ruling class. YOU work for THEM.

  • Mickey Rat||

    It is not dumb.

    Uber threatens the established systems of graft for the local governments of New York State. Opposing that is not stupid. Greedy and evil, maybe, but not stupid.

  • Rhywun||

    New York's state government still does not allow ridesharing services to operate in upstate New York

    I didn't know that. Cuomo's entire reign has been one giant fuck-you to upstate hasn't it? No fracking, ridiculous sin taxes, ridiculous minimum wage increases, etc etc, and now this. I left the region 20 years ago and there was constant bitching about the tone-deaf governors but the situation then was nothing compared to now. If anything the difference in the economies is greater than ever and Cuomo doesn't give a flying fuck beyond his various graft schemes in Buffalo, Albany, and I think Syracuse.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Cuomo doesn't give a flying fuck beyond his various graft schemes in Buffalo, Albany, and I think Syracuse.

    I just saw a commercial for Cuomo's Syracuse Enterprise Zone this morning.

    "Come to Syracuse!"

    Yeah... I'd rather not.

  • Rhywun||

    Upstate is turning into what leftists admire about Cuba - rotting cars everywhere, houses falling down - only with no hope in sight of any sort of recovery.

  • UnCivilServant||

    only with no hope in sight of any sort of recovery.

    If we can get Iran or the Koreans to nuke NYC, we might have enough of a shift to change governments.

    Short of that...

  • CZmacure||

    Uber's ponzi scheme will implode very soon. Drivers are screwed as soon as they sign up. From the low wages they make now, to the wear and tear of their debt-mobiles aka leased cars. Once Uber has enough Self Driving Cars (SDV) on the road, all those who drive for them will be unemployed. There's a video out that explains the truth behind driving for TNC's quite nicely. Google "Uber : After Expenses (Silent Film)"

  • Dan Nietzsche||

    "Uber is one of these great inventions, startups, of this new economy and it's taking off like fire to dry grass and it's giving people jobs. I don't think the government should be in the business of trying to restrict job growth."

    Before this great invention to be applied in practice, UBER, the Government or both must reimburse all NYC Taxi Medallion owners for loss of their business guaranteed by State and Local laws since 1937.

  • waxlily||

    From WashPost : "The firms' real reason for opposing fingerprinting may be that it (slightly) strengthens the argument that their drivers are employees and not, as Uber and Lyft insist, private contractors. As employees, they would be eligible to press for a range of benefits that would upend the firms' labor costs and business models."

    Bring Uber to Buffalo--end the ban!

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