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Finally, #UberMovesAlbany

Elected officials, law enforcement and local business leaders gathered today in downtown Albany to celebrate the launch of ride-hailing apps in the Capital Region, now legal across New York, ahead of the July 4th weekend.

"Ridesharing is here to stay in New York State."

Assemblyman John McDonald pushed for three years to pass legislation allowing Uber and Lyft to operate throughout the state.   "As a person who represents five cities, this is a great opportunity to invite those from the suburbs to come back to the city. Come back, enjoy the restaurants, enjoy the theaters. Who knows, maybe next year they can even have a beer at the theater if we move that next leg along, right?"

Heralded as "a new culture of transportation" for upstate New York, Uber's debut is a great day for everyone, including taxi dispatchers, according to area businessman Vic Christopher.    "...because they hate their jobs. And they find customers annoying. And every time you call up it's almost like we're so impatient. 'Oh we've only been waiting an hour and a half,' and how come the taxi doesn't show up, ever?"

To be fair, the taxi industry, which lobbied hard against expanding ride-hailing, would dispute that characterization.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan sees ride-hailing making city streets safer and boosting the regional economy.   "I always talk about, a great city is judged by how they greet their customers and how they greet their visitors. We weren't greeting our visitors in a very positive way. By not having a transportation alternative that exists in cities across the country and around the world."

Business Council of New York State Director of Government Affairs John Evers  says expanding Uber and Lyft was one of the Council's number one economic development issues.    "I spent yesterday talking to the Westchester County Legislature to try to allow Uber in Westchester. This say took a long time coming. Far too long. I know there've been dispersions about government and business getting along, but I guess that's job security to a degree. But what I think is great about this is that now, on a simple technology app, people can hail a ride."

Capital Region Chamber CEO Mark Egan believes Uber's impact here will be huge.   "So those who are listening today, also for this to work, besides folks to want to ride in Uber, we need folks who wanna drive. So those who are looking for a job or part-time job, the service can be only as good as those who are behind the wheel. It's a great opportunity, let's embrace it!"

An independent study conducted by Temple University found cities where Uber operates have 3.6 percent-5.6 percent fewer drunk driving deaths than cities without it. And a report by Uber and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) released in January concludes that when empowered with more transportation options like Uber, people are making responsible choices that result in fewer alcohol-related crashes.

Riders can download the Uber app in the iTunes or Google Play stores.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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