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After Six Months In Upstate NY, Ride-Hailing Services Going Strong

ride-hailing app

Ride-hailing service Lyft has partnered with the newly renovated Times Union Center in downtown Albany. Here's a look at ride-hailing six months after Uber and Lyft began operating in upstate New York.

June 29, 2017 marked the first day ride-hailing services were permitted in upstate New York and Long Island.  Albany's Times Union Center recently announced it is partnering with Lyft in establishing a "Lyft Exit" from the arena on the Market Street side of the concourse. Lyft General Manager of NJ and Upstate NY Ann Ferracane says it will enable customers to pay for rides directly through the Lyft app.      "All new customers will also be able to get $5 off of their first four rides with a discounted coupon code, and we hope that this provides a safer option for people leaving a busy venue."

Albany International Airport Director of Public Affairs Doug Myers says ride-hailing is here to stay.   "Lyft and Uber have really shaken up the Capital District transportation market. In terms of ride-sharing here at the airport we have Lyft. Lyft is able to operate here at the airport because they do have a permit. Unfortunately, Uber has yet to sign on over a permit with the airport and they're not permitted here. On any given day I can find anywhere from 10 to 12 Lyft cars in our Lyft lot which is across the street from the Albany County Nursing Home and they respond quickly to folks here at the airport."

Josh Gold is Senior Policy Director with Uber New York. He's hopeful Uber can come to an agreement with the airport.   "We just entered into an agreement as of New Year's Day with Ithaca Airport, so we have agreements in place with Niagara, Buffalo, Ithaca, Syracuse and Rochester airports, and you know we're hopeful that we can come to an agreement in Albany."

Myers explains Albany Airport's situation as a public authority:   "We need third-party financial review of any vendor working with the airport here, and Lyft has agreed to that. they have set up what we call a 'geo-fence' around the airport, which is use of the geo-positioning satellites. So once a Lyft car crosses that imaginary line it is automatically billed to the airport and we receive a $2 fee for the fare."

Those who study public transportation seem to agree there's room for competition. Gold says New Yorkers are likely to see more alliances between venues and ride-hailing services.    "You know we have some great partnerships across the state including at the racetrack. We had a great partnership this past season and we're gonna be up there again in Saratoga, and you know, folks who leave the arena can always walk across the street and request an Uber, and we look forward to having more exciting partnerships throughout the Capital Region."

The taxi industry has felt the presence of ride-hailing. The state Legislature authorized CDTA to oversee the Capital Region's cabs in 2016, following years of customer complaints about various issues regarding taxi service. Upstate Transportation Association, which represents the interests of cab companies, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On its website, CDTA lists around 60 taxicab companies currently serving Albany and three companies each serving Rensselaer and Colonie.  Again, Doug Myers:   "We have some indication that some of the Capitaland Taxi service has declined a bit. I think they've taken a little bit of a hit due to Lyft and Uber. However, they're still providing outstanding service here at the airport for folks who need taxicabs throughout the area."

Gold says in the end, it's all about customer service, and the fact that the public has choices. Uber is decidedly optimistic about upstate New York.   "A lot of the agreements, like the airport agreement, they take time to figure out and part of what we have to look at is how quickly there would be updates to both riders and drivers but especially for drivers throughout the Capital Region so that we can work with agencies like CDTA to provide better service from New Yorkers. And part of what we did over the first six months was monitor that to make sure that the reliability was good throughout the region, and I think now that we're seeing a lot of success, it opens up the opportunity for more discussions with transit agencies like the CDTA."

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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