It is ridiculous that we are still having the discussion about why ridesharing is not legal in upstate New York. If you’re from here, you’ve heard this same argument or a similar one about a hundred times now. But nothing has changed.
As of yesterday, we’re living in the only place in the continental United States without the ability to use ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft. (Wyoming was the one to pass it and leave NY on its own.) The only exceptions are Austin, TX where they outlawed the app but once had it, and the state of Alaska who hasn’t gotten on board yet at all.
It’s 2017! Children can ride sneakers with wheels on it down the middle school hallways, we can virtually connect face-to-face with someone in Zimbabwe, Panera Bread delivers and operates drive-thrus where you can buy soup to-go (still weird) but we can’t hitch a ride from a qualified, professional stranger with a nice car?
And I know it’s not like people aren’t pushing for it here. It’s a constant battle every day for people like Governor Andrew Cuomo who’s an advocate, Capital Region entrepreneurs like Vic Christopher and Matt Baumgartner who have leveraged their status as successful business owners-turned-public figures, and members of the local community in Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse who confirm how invaluable this service would be. Why?
First of all, New York State wants young people to stay in upstate New York.
And according to an article by the New York Post, 126,000 New Yorkers moved out of the state in 2014. Taxes and the cost of living are high, it’s semi-difficult to find jobs for college graduates outside of the Metro NY area, young people are spending all their dollars on student loans and can no longer afford to live here. Ridesharing is the final straw and a legitimate reason for us all to get the f*ck out of town.
So, we do. We move to places like New York City, Philadelphia, Charleston, Boston, Kansas City, Dallas, Los Angeles, Boise, literally EVERY city ever who allows us to not worry about driving home after a boozy brunch or a company sponsored happy hour.
We’re young and we want to have fun, yes. But what’s different now than when our parents were young is that we are truly responsible. We know our limits and worry about things like safe transportation in advance. Your mom or teenage brother isn’t going to be your designated driver forever, and you can’t always leave your car in the tavern parking lot overnight. Wouldn’t it be nice to rely on apps like Uber and Lyft to give you a safe ride home so you can set those fears aside? Yeah, every other state in America thinks so.
could will benefit our economy.
The passing of this law would create 13,000 jobs across NYS. *Mic drop*
But also, local businesses would bring in even more patrons to cities like Troy who are dying for residents of Clifton Park and Saratoga to have a taste of the upscale restaurants and shopping the area has worked so hard to develop. If our old industrial towns along the Hudson are to experience any sort of Renaissance revitalization, it’s got to be made accessible to people who willingly want to spend money on a night out there.
Third, the cabs in the Capital Region are, um, terrible.
Take a step on Broadway in Saratoga Springs on a sweaty, drunken Saturday night and have you and your three friends walk up to separate cabs (of the same fleet) and ask for a price for a ride from Saratoga to Clifton Park. When you reunite, each of you will say a different number ranging from $40-75 dollars.
And no, it’s not your inebriated memory failing you, that’s just what the cab drivers do. There is no set cost from one location to the next, so you’re left with sitting in a cigarette-scented third row of a 1997 mini van watching the meter go up until you finally after to call your parents and see if they can Venmo you some extra cash to cover the cost.
In the professional world, coworkers scramble around the office on a Tuesday morning and ask for one lucky employee to get a car wash so they can have a clean ride to pick up the CEO who just took a flight or Amtrak train into town. Companies can’t afford to have any sort of financially powerful, well-educated person from a decent city visit Albany and face the horrific reality of the taxi service here. That’s an easy way to end a business deal.
And finally, Upstate New York can’t afford to lose [what’s left of] its street cred.
Have you ever been on vacation somewhere and a kind stranger asked where you’re from? Of course you have. But what happens next is usually a little more memorable.
You, the Tourist: “I’m from New York.”
Savvy Local: “Oh, the Big Apple! What borough do you live in? Is it so awesome there? You don’t mind dealing with how crowded it is? I heard you can’t buy an extra-large cup of soda there!”
“Oh no, I’m from Albany –it’s actually the capital of New York.”
We’ll always face this dilemma no matter where we travel. Mostly because NYC is way cooler than we’ll ever be, but I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to explain to an Uber driver in Miami, Chicago or even St. Mary’s City Maryland (yes, Maryland‘s first colonial settlement has Uber and we don’t) that we are without ride sharing in the capital city of freaking New York State.
This is a hella long hot take, but I can’t/won’t stop. There’s been dozens of public events and forums over the last few years to help Uber’s cause, but if you read this and realize it’s time to get involved now, here’s the next chance you have to do so:
ALBANY RIDESHARING FORUM
An Albany Ridesharing Forum will be held on March 15 at 5:30 PM. Meet at City Beer Hall at 4:30 PM.
Forum will be held at 5:30 PM in the Albany County Office Building, Cahill Room, 112 State Street.
42 Howard Street