Op/Ed By Kofi Quaye –
It’s a done deal. Uber and other ride-sharing apps will soon be operating in full force in upstate New York. The governor is reported to have signed a bill mandating that Uber, and other ride-sharing apps, be allowed to expand to upstate New York.
Hitherto, Uber has been allowed to operate only in New York city.
But, it looks like Uber has finally succeeded in accomplishing what the company has sought for so long; they are coming to Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Albany, and other upstate cities soon.
This is certainly good news for the digital age, and for smartphone-using ride seekers who want to experience the new phenom in transportation that has caught on like wildfire around the world.
All you have to do is download the app to your smartphone, and a car close to you will show up to take you to your destination. It’s safer and very convenient for most people, and, better yet, no money changes hands.
It’s all taken care of electronically, with either a debit or credit card.
People love the convenience of not having to stop at the ATM to get cash before calling a taxi.
However, on the other hand, it may be very bad news for those in the taxi and transportation industries.
As far as upstate taxi drivers are concerned, they believe they are about to be put of business, and they’ve tried everything in their power to stop Uber from expanding to upstate, but to no avail.
Uber has used its expansive financial and political clout to great effect.
The company’s advertisements appear everywhere, especially on social media, and with powerful messages that talk about creating thousands of jobs that will make it much easier for people to get rides.
However, what is the basis for Gov. Cuomo’s decision to sign off on a bill that was opposed by many legislators, in part because they didn’t want to allow Uber to dictate the terms and conditions under which they would operate in upstate NY?
Have all the issues been resolved? Or did Uber merely succeed in intimidating, and out-maneuvering all opposition to end up getting just what they wanted?
Was there any consideration given to the concerns of taxi and transportation providers in upstate New York?
Media reports appear to indicate that most of the concerns of those who opposed Uber have been addressed. One of the major issues was insurance. Uber, and other ride-sharing companies argued that they are not businesses in the conventional sense, just using apps on smartphones to transport people seeking rides, so they don’t need the same kinds of insurance that covers taxis and other transportation providers.
But, Uber opponents posited that drivers provide the same service as regular taxis, and therefore have to assume the same responsibility that comes with operating such a business, including paying for expensive commercial insurance.
They also pointed out that Uber doesn’t have a system to check the criminal backgrounds of its drivers, and so may bring with it the potential of putting passengers in harm’s way, which is a legitimate concern, considering the fact that Uber has received a lot of bad press over the unethical behavior of its drivers.
In my opinion, many, but not all of these issues appear to have been resolved. Uber and any other ride-sharing apps will be regulated, and drivers will have to comply with transportation rules and regulations like the rest.
According to the media, they will pay group insurance for their drivers; however, the problem is, the actual details have not been made public.
We don’t know precisely what kind of insurance Uber drivers will buy.
Local police have also been slated to make sure Uber drivers operate within certain guidelines designed to ensure passenger and driver safety. But does it mean Uber drivers will be fingerprinted, have their criminal records checked by the police, pay the $300 annual city taxi license fee and have their vehicles checked every year by the police, the same way they do with taxi drivers?
And, what about Uber’s claim to creating thousands of jobs? How legit is that claim?
As a result, Uber’s mystique will continue to grow.
Meanwhile, the morale of the taxi drivers and transportation operators in Syracuse is at a low ebb during a time when they must renew taxi driving licenses, city taxi licenses, and go in for the inspection of their vehicles to ensure passenger and driver safety.
Some have just about given up hope.
I know a few local taxi drivers who say they are seriously considering signing up with Uber when it starts operating in Syracuse. They don’t think they’ll survive the competition.
And, to make matters worse, illegal transportation providers have also started popping up in the city.
The April 2 edition of the Syracuse Post Standard published an article titled “Black-market taxi; Rogue service fills niche in lieu of apps like Uber,” that focused on a black-market taxi service currently operating in Syracuse.
The illegal taxi business is out there in the open, and the police know about it, the article said. But will they take any definitive action to stop it?
The illegal service providers are not scared of the police, otherwise they wouldn’t have allowed their illegal business to be exposed in the local newspaper.
As for Uber, they may have won the battle, but not the war, in my opinion. There are far too many questions to which I can find no answers.