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Stuck at the curb

How do you solve a problem like Uber and Lyft? New York lawmakers have been grappling with that question.

They are not alone. Across the nation and overseas, government officials have been trying to figure out how to regulate the upstart, app-based ventures known as ridesharing, ride-hailing or transportation network companies.

Less than a decade old—Uber was founded in 2009, Lyft launched in 2012—these firms have grown rapidly in the markets where they operate. Most users give them high marks for reliability, service and cost.

But like many disruptive ideas, they also face opposition. As RBJ staff writer Velvet Spicer reports in this week’s edition, the taxi industry argues that Uber and Lyft should not be allowed to operate in Upstate New York unless they face the same regulations, fees and insurance costs taxi drivers must bear.

New York City currently allows Uber to operate as a black car service, but Albany needs to act to permit TNCs elsewhere in the state. Proposed legislation would establish insurance rules for the ridesharing services but leave the final decision on their operation to local governments.

In our view, it’s time for state lawmakers to act. More than two dozen states nationwide have crafted TNC regulations, and Albany is not doing the upstate region any favor by dragging its heels.

A new Siena Research Institute poll shows nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers support legislation to allow ride-hailing services to operate in their area. And a Pew Research Center study found they are particularly popular among millennials and other college graduates—precisely those who economic development officials want to attract.

Regulations are needed, but the goal should be a framework that encourages innovation among both ridesharing firms and traditional taxi operators.

Places that want to be centers of new thinking and economic growth are figuring out the “problem” of Uber, Lyft and other innovators like them. The rest likely will be left behind.

6/3/2016 (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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