As part of the $153.1 billion 2018 budget that was finalized by the New York State Senate on April 9, Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft are now permitted to operate throughout the state under a uniform statewide license.
With the new legislation, Lyft and Uber drivers can operate outside of New York City legally. They were formerly banned on Long Island and in upstate New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal included a mandate for drivers to carry specific, high levels of insurance and to identify cars used by ride-sharing companies with permanent signs.
“The current limitations on the availability of ride-sharing services has meant that millions of New Yorkers are not only missing out on an alternative form of transportation, but thousands more are being prevented from pursuing new flexible job opportunities as ride-share drivers,” the governor’s budget outline reads.
David O’Neill, who owns the Village Car Service in Lynbrook and has licenses to operate in Lynbrook and East Rockaway, said he would be happy to have a uniform state license. He added, however, that it is unfair for only Uber and Lyft to be granted this access.
“Mr. Cuomo where’s my state license for Village Car Service?” he said. “I’d like to be able to have a state license and do the same. If you’re gonna offer it to Uber and Lyft, you should offer it to me. Otherwise, it’s unconstitutional.”
A call to Cuomo’s office to inquire about state licenses being offered to all cab services was not returned as of press time.
O’Neill explained that every car that picks up passengers in Nassau County villages has to be licensed in those villages, as do the drivers of the vehicles. He added that the same is true for cars and drivers within the Town of Hempstead. O’Neill said that it would be much easier if there were a single license that is valid across the state.
“If you’re gonna give a license to one person or one entity, everyone should have access to that license,” he said. O’Neill noted that he has about 20 drivers for the Villages of East Rockaway and Lynbrook, but they are restricted from driving passengers to villages where they aren’t licensed to operate.
The ride-sharing debate has been hotly contested, and New York and Alaska were the only two states that restricted access to entities like Uber and Lyft in some areas.
O’Neill said he would agree with the legislation if it meant equal ground for all companies. He stressed that a uniform license would be a good thing because it would require drivers to be fingerprinted and drug-tested yearly. He also expressed concern that the license would not be open to every company.
“What’s the sense of me paying fees to the Village of Lynbrook and meeting their strict guidelines if someone could come in and they could do whatever they want now?” he said. “Now the value of my business just dropped.”