Regular readers of Discover Main Street are well aware of the importance of a bike-friendly and pedestrian friendly Main Street. But complete streets are also about cars too – and hopefully one day soon – ride sharing.
Ride sharing, a business model popularized by tech giants Uber and Lyft, has long since swept across the country, largely supplanting taxicab companies as a faster and more efficient model of transportation. Swept across the country, that is, except in upstate and Western New York, where they’re simply not available. Coupled with a lack of public transportation, this means means if you need a ride in Clarence, you’re probably stuck calling a taxicab company in Cheektowaga.
Because we don’t have ride sharing in Western New York, we just don’t realize what we’re missing out on. The rest of the country does, however. Being this late to the party has it’s problems, as Buffalo Rising points out in their post “What Do you Mean There’s No Uber In Buffalo?” Buffalo Rising points to the coming NCAA tournament, expected to draw thousands of visitors to Buffalo and notes “it will be interesting when all of those visitors get here and open their Uber apps, and nothing happens.”
In fact, the lack of ride sharing services doesn’t just make the Buffalo area a curiosity nationwide, but worldwide. In a Fortune article this past year entitled “These 5 Famous Cities Still Don’t Have Uber,” Buffalo is the only city on the list not located outside the United States. Whoa.
So what’s standing in the way? Antiquated state laws, and John Tomassi, president of the Upstate Transportation Association, who is determined to protect the taxicab owners he represents. Tomassi has sought to hobble and ride-sharing with a blizzard of regulations, including “a ban on driverless cars for at least 50 years.” Tomassi’s position has been so tone deaf that the New York Post blames “Cronyism” as the chief reason why we’ve been left behind in the sharing economy.
To be clear, this isn’t a big city phenomenon. Here’s a look at five reasons ride sharing matters to us right here on Main Street Clarence:
1. Ride Sharing is Faster.
Fortune compares ride sharing vs. taxicabs to the difference between choosing a smart phone or a phone booth. When you request a ride, your phone’s GPS locates your exact position and matches you with available drivers. And with a larger pool of potential drivers filling in the gaps, rides are available at places and at hours that taxicabs just can’t cover.
2. Ride Sharing is Safer
John Tomassi’s position to the contrary, both Uber and Lyft do extensive background checks. What’s more, you are presented with a name and photo of your driver before they arrive, and all drivers are scored with a five-star system that “crowdsources” information on your driver before you ever choose them for your ride. It’s also cash free. Because payment for your ride is handled from within your app and charged to a credit or debit card, there’s no need to carry cash. Anyone who has ever had to take a taxicab to an ATM on the way home knows why this matters.
3. Ride Sharing is a Flexible Source of Income for Drivers
Ride sharing has benefits for the drivers too. By creating a new source of income with flexible hours, drivers are able to supplement their income from other sources. Many millennials in other areas are finding ride sharing produces enough extra income to offset the cost of a new car.
4. Ride Sharing Reduces Drunk Driving
According to Lyft, “92 percent say are more likely to avoid driving while intoxicated because they can get a Lyft ride.” Sure, there’s a big difference between what people say and what they do (no room for that here), but taking 9 out of 10 drunk drivers off the road would be the single biggest gain in the history of drunk driving prevention. The ready availability of rides would not only provide instant feedback as to where that 2am ride is coming from, but many people will choose to leave the car at home before they head out for the night – something almost impossible in our current car-centric Town.
5. Ride Sharing Will Boost The Local Economy
That same Lyft study reports that 78 percent of riders are headed to restaurants or entertainment venues, and it has a lot to do with the fact that riders don’t want to drink and drive. Lyft claims that this translates into a 51 percent increase in spending at local businesses. That’s a lot of additional economic activity, and for our Clarence Main Street it includes patrons coming from Lancaster, Williamsville and Akron that may visit more frequently and stay longer. It may also help keep millennials here in Clarence from moving away towards downtown, where a greater choice of transportation options makes it easier to drink responsibly.
Anne Valby, owner of the Penny Lane Café, sees it like this. “If people know they can get home safely and not endanger others, will they feel more comfortable having their night out include alcohol? Absolutely!”
2017 could be the year that ride sharing comes to Main Street. Governor Coumo is pushing the legislature to get ride sharing to upstate (along with a 5.5% tax). For the second year, the State Senate has passed a ride sharing bill. Last year they were unable to get legislation through the Assembly, a situation that proponents hope will not repeat itself.
If you want to show your support for Ride Sharing in the State Senate and Assembly, you can sign State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer’s online petition here, and Assemblyman Mike Norris’s online petition here.