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Stalled in Albany

In more than half the states nationwide, government officials have figured out how to regulate ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft. Those alternatives to taxis are available in New York City too.

But not in Upstate New York. Despite polls showing that upstate residents overwhelming want ridesharing services, the state Legislature remains stuck in neutral on the issue.

Here’s the good news: Proponents are making a renewed effort to get the Legislature to act. Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo has urged lawmakers to take up a ridesharing measure. Similar calls have come from groups ranging from leading civil rights organizations to the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police Inc.

On behalf of the business community, the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce is supporting a petition drive to bring ridesharing to the upstate region. As Rochester Chamber president and CEO Robert Duffy writes this week in his monthly RBJ column, app-based services like Uber and Lyft are more than just safe, convenient ways to get around.

“This issue is about our economic future and attracting and retaining young professionals and our next generation of leaders,” he writes.

To be sure, regulations for these services—also known as ride-hailing and transportation network companies—are needed. But it really should not be beyond lawmakers to come up with a framework that spurs innovation among ridesharing firms and traditional taxi operators alike.

Some in the taxi industry no doubt simply want to block Uber and Lyft from entering the upstate market. They fear competition. But a competitive market is good for consumers—and for businesses that embrace change.

And ridesharing would bring other likely benefits, from job opportunities for people who want flexibility to a reduction in drunk-driving accidents.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants ridesharing for upstate, and if the Legislature is called back for a special session, the issue could come to the fore soon. But even if it must wait until next year, lawmakers should simply get it done.

12/16/2016 (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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