By Staff Writer
New York Lawmakers have been debating the benefits and drawbacks to Uber for the last few years. Buffalo, New York, is the largest city in the Unted States not to have the ride sharing service. The debate over ridesharing has had several points of contention: insurance, access for people with disabilities, and labor regulations.
Elected officals held a public hearing on Uber back in February, right after the state senate passed a bill approving Uber. Speakers opposed to, or critical of ride sharing raised all of the problems mentioned above. Ridesharing, in and of itself, is not a bad idea. Uber and Lyft need to be regulated if we’re going to allow them at all.
Public transportation and taxis are, by and large, handicapped accessable. Cab companies have vans as part of their fleet to service customers who are wheelchair-bound. Uber requires their drivers to have newer vehicles, but they don’t take the same approach that the taxi companies do to ensuring equal access to their service.
Public transportation workers are covered under minimum wage and workers compensation laws. Uber’s desire is to classify their drivers as ‘independent contractors’ and, as a result, freeing Uber from the same labor and wage laws that other employers have to comply with.
Taxis are required to comply with local licensing laws and other regulations. Uber, in most states, is not held to the same standards. As a result, they’re able to provide a service at a lower cost and undercut their competition with a built-in, unfair advantage.
Uber also has what is called “surge pricing”, which is essentially fluctuating prices depending on demand in a service area. Individual drivers are not able to control prices and have to deal with the consequences of ride prices changing by the minute. Taxi and public transport fees are constant, providing more predictability in transportation costs.
The argument that Uber will reduce drunk driving needs to be put up against this fact. In Buffalo, we have taxis that want for business on a Friday night. If Uber chooses to jack up the rates on a Friday night, there may be drivers in want of customers and a negligible impact on the rate of drunk driving.
The support for ridesharing is strong in New York. When it is approved, we will have to deal with the problems face in other states. A self-driving Uber car in Arizona was recently involved in a traffic accident. As a result, the self-driving cars were pulled from the 3 states they’re being tested in.
Beyond the problems already discussed, we need to address the fact that Uber isn’t profitable, that the company actively worked to undermine labor negotiations between labor and management, as well as the issues their drivers have with turning their ‘career’ with Uber into a profitable venture, and we have a situation where we should all think twice before we support Uber operating in upstate New York.