Home / Opinion / Op-Ed / To help keep young talent here, OK ridesharing

To help keep young talent here, OK ridesharing

We are experiencing a brain drain of young professionals in Rochester.

Our students tend to leave our city in search of “something better” after graduating—the problem is that most of them never experience the real Rochester in the first place.

Despite all the food, culture and nightlife that our city has to offer, we lack an easy and convenient way to get the next generation of Rochester leaders out and experiencing our city.

With its ability to expand transportation options, stimulate our local economy and make our community safer for everyone, what exactly is there not to love about ridesharing programs like Uber and Lyft?

That’s a question we should ask our state representatives, because the only thing stopping those programs from serving Rochester and other upstate towns and cities is a series of laws that make no sense.

New York’s dismissal of ridesharing is blocking Rochester’s ability to keep young professionals in the city after they graduate, expand our economy and keep our streets safe.

As the Rochester Institute of Technology Student Government president, I know that many of RIT’s entrepreneurial and innovative students would love to settle down here and to call themselves Rochester residents—but they need to be able to actually get off campus and into the city first. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve heard students say they thought there was nothing to do in Rochester, until they finally got a chance to experience downtown.

Student spending power is a vital part of the local economy, but the transportation options currently available for getting us—and our dollars—into local businesses are insufficient.

Ridesharing would benefit students too. All college students contend with college debt, and our class and study schedules prevent us from taking steady jobs. Driving for Lyft or Uber is a great option for a student who needs to save money while managing a rigorous class schedule.

Estimates have been made that lifting the restrictions would create 13,000 freelance driver jobs across New York in the first year alone; that means more opportunities for jobs for all Rochester residents, not just students.

There’s a question of safety too. Those of us who travel to family homes downstate know the anxious feeling of arriving in Rochester late on a Sunday night and needing to figure out a ride back to campus from the airport with limited options. Even during the semester, students are looking for a safer way of getting home from a night off-campus.

And we all know how dangerous our roads can be when anyone drives home after drinking. The introduction of ridesharing across the United States has precipitated a measurable reduction in drunk-driving incidents, which means safer roads for our students and our communities.

Most important, by cutting through the red tape of insurance and licensing regulations holding back the Western New York economies, we can bring our communities into the 21st century and put our city in a position to compete with the modernized transportation networks of most large American cities like Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. That’s an important step if we’re going to revive upstate cities to make them more attractive to businesses big and small, and to students looking to settle after graduation.

The Rochester Intercollegiate Council, which represents students from nine colleges and universities in the area, has urged the Assembly and the Senate to lift the restrictions that keep out businesses like Lyft and Uber. Ridesharing will immediately boost local economies, and in the long term they’ll also make the area more appealing to young professionals, for whom the lack of transportation here counts against living in Rochester.

Allowing ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber to operate will help make staying in Rochester more attractive to our students who have plenty of options once they graduate. Let’s work toward showing off our city’s culture and fostering a generation of young professionals to become the engine of future growth for a Rochester community they will be proud to call home.

Nick Giordano is president of the Rochester Institute of Technology Student Government.

3/25/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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