Ridesharing across Upstate New York has been halted since companies like Lyft were found to be out of compliance with state regulations last summer. However, new legislation in Albany could provide a comeback, which supporters say would be a benefit to the Western New York Community.
After serving in the Army, Chad Snowden moved to Buffalo. Last summer he became a driver for Lyft during the company’s brief stint in the local market.
“One of the things it did for me is help me to learn the Buffalo area,” recalled Snowden. “The hidden jewels that are here, the festivals, the parks.”
Snowden drove part-time as a way to make extra money for family expenses, and build a savings for school. He says the idea that Lyft was trying to edge out taxis in Buffalo was not what he and his passengers saw. Snowden says taxis tended to be based in the city, leaving residents of the suburbs with fewer safe options.
“They were saying, ‘Hey, if it wasn’t for Lyft coming here, I would have gone to the bar anyway and I would have drove my car,” said Snowden.
The ridesharing bill in Albany (S.4280-A / A.690-A) would allow Lyft to provide insurance for its drivers and have a uniform registration process. Snowden sees an opportunity for more economic exchange between the city and the suburbs with Lyft, and says it’s a positive influence on the community.
At a Friday morning rally for the ridesharing bill, Amherst Chamber of Commerce President Colleen Dipirro noted that ridesharing is a trendsetting economic development tool.
“Urban areas and metropolitan areas across the county benefit from ridesharing,” said Dipirro. “We can’t be left behind. It’s critically important that we also have this component.”
Dipirro says ridesharing currently has almost universal support from Western New York’s senate and assembly delegations. The hurdle now is gaining statewide backing before the end of the legislative session in Albany on June 17th.