Uber’s convenient services and reasonable prices are often taken for granted within New York City. The nearly ubiquitous ride-hailing service is the drunk New Yorker’s 2 a.m. best friend. However, the widespread use of this service masks a little known truth: outside of the comfort of the city’s five boroughs, a frightening reality awaits — an entire state devoid of a single Uber or Lyft.
Yes, it’s unfortunately true, New York State has banned the use of unofficially sanctioned ride-hailing services since long before Uber’s rise. New York State law makes it almost impossible for outside companies to provide the proper insurance to their drivers throughout the state, and Uber has not fared well against these regulations — other than in New York City, where the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission begrudgingly struck an agreement with the rideshare company.
Uber and Lyft have tested these restrictions time and time again — the two companies have spent nearly a million dollars since 2013 attempting to fight the regulation. Their attempts to open up the New York transportation market to technologically savvy competitors have been met with vehement criticism by taxi drivers and owners of private car services. However, their luck may soon change, as over the next seven weeks New York lawmakerswill be meeting to discuss the fate of hundreds of bills, one of which concerns the use of app-based ride-hailing services throughout the rest of the state.
This has reignited the debate over the potential consequences of non-yellow transportation. Many pro-taxi lobbyists have argued that Uber’s rise could lead to a transportation monopoly that would leave the iconic yellow cabs as nothing more than nostalgic reminders of the past. But this may not be necessarily a bad thing. The intense regulation and governmental support given to the taxicab industry has certainly helped standardize transportation throughout New York City, and influenced the rest of the state, but if customers prefer Uber, they should be allowed to have it. While it may be frightening for cab drivers to realize that rideshares are overwhelmingly preferred to traditional yellow cabs, this reality should not inspire heavier regulations, but instead push the taxi industry to fix its faults.
Instead, the mass panic for yellow-cab supporters has resulted in a state that is beyond behind in transportation. The people of Syracuse are forced to overpay for taxis, while those living in more than 60 smaller cities throughout the U.S. can Uber or Lyft themselves to their heart’s content. Competition should not continue to scare legislators into restricting thriving industries. The people of New York deserve the right to choose whether to surge or not to surge — that is not a lawmaker’s decision.
This article initially appeared online and in the May 2nd print edition of Washington Square News.