WNY civic leaders urge state lawmakers to approve ridesharing

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Western New York civic leaders gathered at Kleinhans Music Hall Thursday afternoon to urge passage of ridesharing legislation for Upstate New York. Uber and Lyft have been plying the streets of New York City for two years, and Lyft operated for a short time in Buffalo during the summer of 2014.

The coalition brought together leaders from the city and suburbs; Democrats, Republicans, and other political persuasions; and service providers for those with disabilities.

Legislation is pending in Albany to enable ridesharing Upstate, but the roadblocks right now are insurance and regulation issues. Supporters say it could open up economic opportunity for communities and individuals looking to supplement their income.

Arnold Abira drove for Lyft during its short stint in Buffalo, and told the gathering he used his additional cash to care for his sick father, “Lyft is a profit option because even though I have a full-time job, it opens up gates for you to make supplemental income.”

Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo pointed out Buffalo’s dubious distinction among National Football League markets, “Residents of Western New York have waited long enough. As the only NFL city not to have ridesharing, we cannot go into another football season without it.”

But Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown was asked what assurances the city is getting from supporters that all segments of Buffalo with be able to utilize the service since ridesharing requires access to a credit card and the Internet.

“I think one of the important things for all members of our community is making sure that they do have access to credit, that they do have access to banking resources, and that is something that I think has to happen, as well, as part of this.”

Some in the community feel credit card and Internet access would eliminate a large segment of Buffalo’s population from sharing in the prosperity because they don’t have easy access to credit cards or the Internet.

Ridesharing is also promoted as an alternative to limousines or taxis, but limousine and taxi operators say special legislation for ridesharing would put the established businesses at a severe disadvantage.

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