Tompkins County
New York

Report or Discussion Item

Uber Operations in Upstate


Department:Transportation CommitteeSponsors:

Meeting History

May 22, 2017 10:00 AM  Transportation Committee Regular Meeting

Mr. Dennis stated he has followed news regarding Uber and Lyft operating in the Upstate area and is supportive of it provided the drivers follow regulations including a valid driver’s license, valid insurance, and have no prior driving while intoxicated record.

Mr. Morey agrees with Mr. Dennis and stated this area attracts people from all over the world and is viewed by some as an international hub. Uber and Lyft are used worldwide and if we want to continue to attract these people there is a need to support these operations.

Mr. de Aragon said there are a number of unknowns regarding how this will work in a smaller urban area like Ithaca. It may not be as big of an option as it is in larger cities and the operations may behave differently with the college.

Mr. Dennis stated when viewing the market in this area there are 100,000 people, during some peak weekends there are more, and the Uber operators will know what they are getting into and in a very short time; it will be driven by the market itself. He added that the price point will be of interest because people know what taxis charge and if the Uber rides begin to be less expensive they may choose them instead.

Mr. Morey inquired if anyone from Ithaca City Council has expressed any type of support for this. Mr. Dennis stated Mayor Myrick is one of the five Upstate mayors who have expressed support and uses it when he is in other cities.

Mr. Lane explained the legislation was recently passed at the State level allowing Uber and Lyft to operate Upstate and there is a Bill to fast-track State regulations and guidelines regarding this. A recent article in the Ithaca Voice points out that it is questionable if local municipalities can regulate the transportation network company (TNC) operations or if it needs to be regulated at the State level. He would like to approach this methodically and consider the taxi situation.

Mr. Lane spoke of a past visit from Julie Holcomb, Ithaca City Clerk, regarding the licensing of taxis being done at the County level instead of the City. Her concerns included the time involved and the fact that the agreement only provided control of the taxis in the urbanized area and the taxis charging higher rates in rural areas due to lack of control. At that time the County was not interested in taking on those responsibilities. There have been issues related to taxis at the Airport and the taxi companies have complained about regulations involving the Airport but Mike Hall, Airport Manager, has made some changes and reported things have improved.

Mr. Lane would like to hear the taxi company’s concerns with TNCs and the new regulations. Under the new legislation there is an opportunity to opt out but in this area it can only be done at the County level. He spoke of Westchester County currently reviewing their opportunity to opt out since it does not have the authority to regulate per their requirements.

Mr. Lane stated this needs to be discussed at the County level and to have a public hearing. He agrees there may be members of the public excited about this but the best interest of the public safety needs to be considered. He also said the size of the City needs to be looked at in regard to sustaining the TNC business and consideration of the impact this may have on taxi companies and the possibility of them being put out of business with the TNC operations in this smaller community.

Mr. de Aragon stated this will be market driven and does not know if the market will be supportive of it:

Mr. Lane said the TNCs are taking the rides for the high-traffic times and that may impact the taxi services as that is a prime time for them to provide their services. He also believes it may be a hit or miss for this area. All the facts need to be discussed to come to the best decision for the County.

Mr. Dennis spoke of waiting for the New York State and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to set up the regulations. Mr. Lane thinks the second Bill is supposed to expedite that process.

Mr. Dennis agrees this is in need of further discussion and input and asked what the public hearing would be pertaining to and if this would be a local law. Mr. Lane stated the public hearing would be regarding the County’s decision to opt out and stated it could be done through this Committee.

Mr. Lane stated Ms. Holcomb plans to be in attendance at the June meeting and he would also like to invite the taxi operators for their input and comments. He would like to discuss taxi licensing also at the June meeting. There are concerns regarding the statewide regulations being enforced locally and being able to verify if individuals have registered in accordance with State regulations.

Another consideration is the safety of vehicles and this may be an area the County may need to take over as a consolidated services issue.

Mr. de Aragon spoke of background checks and vehicle repair and stated the Car Share program currently does a background check on all their members.

Mr. Dennis is in agreement with Mr. Lane's approach.