Uber & Lyft set to make upstate debut

(Photo by Will Dendis)

Hudson Valley residents will have a new option for getting around over the long holiday weekend. Ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft will begin operating in the region. On Thursday, June 29 legislation enabling the companies to provide service statewide will take effect. Representatives of both companies say that they believe they’ve recruited enough drivers locally to meet demand in Ulster County.

Founded in the past decade, Uber and its chief rival Lyft have become a mainstay in cities around the world. The companies employ similar business models, using mobile technology to connect those seeking rides with drivers who serve as independent contractors, using their own vehicles and setting their own hours. Customers can find a ride via a phone-based app. Payment is handled automatically by linking the account to a credit card.

The two companies and similar “Transportation Networking Corporations” have been banned from operating in the state outside New York City, where they are regulated by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. Earlier this year, after years of lobbying state lawmakers pushed through a package of legislation opening up the entire state for Lyft and Uber service.

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Local supporters of the companies include restaurateurs and others in the nightlife industry who hope to see a boost in business if patrons have a reliable and affordable way to get home after a night on the town. Establishments like Stockade Tavern and Redwood Restaurant have hosted events and put up placards for Lyft, which carried out an active marketing campaign in Kingston.

Bar and restaurant owners and patrons who complained of erratic taxi service said that they hoped the ridesharing operations would provide a transportation alternative. “Cabs are nasty. My friends would definitely use [Lyft],” said Angela Silvescri, a patron at Poughkeepsie’s Mahoney’s Irish Pub.

Helping the tourism industry

Ulster County executive Mike Hein said that the new service would help the county’s tourism sector by allowing visitors to use ridesharing services that they had come to rely on at home. The new service could help carless city dwellers enjoy a Hudson Valley vacation without a rental vehicle or even a driver’s license.

The service could also be a boon to senior citizens who need rides to medical appointments, Hein said, and could help reduce drunken-driving fatalities. “I think that there are economic development benefits, public safety benefits and long-term benefits to the entire community,” he added.

Others see the new service as an opportunity to get in on the “gig economy” by becoming drivers. To go on duty, they would simply switch on the app. When they’re done, they’d turn it off.

Kiana Edwards, 21, of Walden recently signed up as an Uber driver. Edwards said that her father works as a driver for Uber’s food-delivery spinoff Uber Eats in New York City and she had been eagerly awaiting the ridesharing service’s upstate rollout. Edwards works commutes between her home and Orange County and a job as an office manager in Dutchess.

She said she planned to use Uber to make extra money by picking up fares while driving back and forth to work and when she has spare time on evenings and weekends. Edwards said that she anticipated plenty of business shuttling riders in New Paltz, Middletown and Poughkeepsie, where demand is high and cab service spotty. “I think it’s definitely going to be a good service, quick and effective,” said Edwards. “Everybody needs to have a vehicle these days, so why not let your vehicle make some money back for you?”

Deal with the present system

Not everyone is happy with the coming of ridesharing to the Hudson Valley. Labor leaders oppose an industry built on independent contractors who do not receive benefits. Taxi-company owners say they’ll be undercut and maybe driven out of business by a competing service that is not bound by state and local regulations governing cabs. The competitors are not required to carry the same expensive liability insurance.

Earlier this month Kingston Kabs owner Jeff Weintraub wrote to Kingston mayor Steve Noble expressing disappointment with local officials’ embrace of the ridesharing companies. Weintraub complained that the ridesharing companies routinely skimped on driver and vehicle oversight. He said they employed practices like “surge pricing,” raising prices during peak hours, a practice that traditional cab companies are forbidden to do. Weintraub’s letter also accused Kingston of failing to enforce a 2011 taxi ordinance, placing him at further competitive disadvantage.

Weintraub went on to question whether there was enough local demand to support ridesharing.

“My point is that before you wrap your arms around these entities, take the time to analyze and learn about what we do and the problems we face,” wrote Weintraub. “Perhaps the first step is to deal with the present system, clean it up, and see if local business people with local workers can provide the service you want the people of Kingston deserve.”

Allowing a range of options

The law passed in Albany earlier to allow ridesharing upstate give counties and the state’s largest cities the option of banning the services or making them follow local taxi ordinances. Hein said that he was mindful of the concerns about ridesharing, but added that the companies offered potential benefits that merited giving them a chance to operate locally.

Mayor Noble, meanwhile, said that the new service fit his vision of providing residents and visitor to Kingston with a range of options for traveling around and through the city.

“I have always pushed for other alternatives for getting around the city,” said Noble. “Now we have this technology that has worked in other places. We have more and more people coming into the city who have this technology on their phones and are wondering why it’s not working here.”

With additional reporting by Christina Coulter.

 

Rules of the road

 

LYFT

Driver requirements

1)   Lyft drivers must be at least 21 years old

2)   Drivers cannot have more than three moving violations or a single major moving violation within the past three years, or a DUI or drug-related driving violation or driving-related conviction within the past seven years on their driving record

3)   Drivers cannot have background check results that reveal a violent crime, a felony, a drug-related offense or any theft or property damage offenses within the past seven years

4)   Drivers must have a valid driver’s license, plates and insurance

5)   Drivers must be equipped with a smartphone with a roaming data plan

6)   Lyft vehicles must have four doors that can open and lock; functional windows, lights, windshield wipers, seat adjustment controls in the front seats and horn; tires with sufficient tread; a body free of damage and dents and have been manufactured after 2005

Get a ride

Download the app from the Apple app store or from google play for Android devices.

1)   Set your location by tapping “Set Pickup” and either dragging a pin to your location using the en suite map or entering an address or business name into the search bar

2)   Tap “Set Destination” to let your driver know where they’re going; tap “Skip” if you’d rather tell them in person

3)   Tap “Request Lyft”

4)   You’ll see a photo of your driver and their estimated time of arrival—you can watch their location on a map, and even call if something changes (like if it starts to rain and you want to wait down the block to take cover)

5)   When your driver arrives, confirm your name and destination

6)   Rate your driver after your trip and leave a review for other passengers to view

Tip your driver

1)   Tap your photo in the top left hand corner of the app

2)   Tap “Ride History”

3)   Select a previous ride

4)   Tap “Tip Driver”

5)   Alternatively, you can tip your driver through the emailed ride receipt that you will receive after payment

6)   You can tip 72 hours after the ride is complete

Become a driver

1)   Create a Lyft account

2)   Enter basic information, such as your name and phone number, along with information needed to check the safety of your vehicle, your background, your driving history, the validity of your driver’s license and the veracity of your identity

3)   Wait for a response from Lyft to your email confirming or denying your application or check https://www.lyft.com/drivers?resume

4)   Schedule a “ mentor and welcome drive”, where an experienced Lyft driver will inspect your vehicle (if it has not already been performed by a certified mechanic) and test your driving ability

Give a ride

1)   Turn on “Driver Mode” within the app

2)   When you see a ride request that you’d like to respond to, accept the request

3)   Pick up the passenger at the designated time

4)   Confirm your pick up within the app

5)   The app will automatically charge the passenger and deposit your earnings into your bank account

 

 

UBER

Driver requirements

1)   Drivers must be 21 years of age

2)   Drivers must have at least 3 years of driving experience

3)   Vehicles cannot have been used previously for taxi-related services, and must have been manufactured after 2006, have four doors and fall into the categories of car, truck or minivan

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4)   Drivers cannot have previous DUIs, a history of driving without car insurance, any previous accidents or reckless driving charges or a criminal history

5)   Drivers must have an in-state license and insurance

6)   Drivers cannot appear on the National Sex Offender Registry, the State Sex Offender Registry or any Suspected Terrorist Databases

Get a ride

Download the app from the Apple app store or from google play for Android devices.

1)   Set your pickup location by laying a pin on the in-app map or by manually entering an address

2)   Enter your destination (which can be changed anytime before or after pickup) and request pick up (your app will notify you of pricing and alert you when your ride is one minute away)

3)   Your app will display your driver’s first name, vehicle make and model and license plate number so that you can locate them—tap this information to text or call your driver through a third-party service

4)   When your driver arrives, confirm your name and destination

5)   You can rate your driver any time before your next Uber ride

Tip your driver

1)   Reach into wallet

2)   Pull our some crisp bills and tip your driver in cash; there is no in-app function to add the cost of a tip to your fare

Become a driver

1)   Sign up for the service at Uber.com

2)   Have your vehicle inspected at an Uber inspection station or a certified third party

3)   Submit documentation for your background check

Give a ride

1)   Open the Uber driver app (which is separate from the app that passengers use to hail Uber vehicles) when you’re ready to start accepting rides

2)   When a notification for a passenger requesting a ride pops up within the app, tap “Accept the Trip”

3)   Use the in-app navigation system to reach the passenger’s location

4)   The app will charge your passenger their fare and directly deposit your earnings into your bank account or paypal

5)   After the ride, both you and your passenger can rate each other and leave reviews for other users to read

-Christina Coulter

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