Cuomo Seeks Statewide Uber Policy, Undercutting New York City

An Uber vehicle is viewed in New York City.

An Uber vehicle is viewed in New York City.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • System could allow residents with cars to operate cab service
  • Move is latest in feud between governor and Mayor de Blasio

Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York state should create a statewide system for regulating Uber Technologies Inc. and other digital ride-sharing companies, a move that could allow anyone with a car in New York City to play the role of a taxi driver.

Cuomo, who made the comments to reporters in New York City on Wednesday at an unrelated event, said a statewide license for companies is needed as they cross municipal borders with fares. New York City allows digital companies such as Uber and Lyft Inc. to operate as for-hire black cars regulated by the city Taxi & Limousine Commission; elsewhere in the world, Uber uses a ride-sharing program that allows drivers to pick up fares with their own cars.

"You can’t do Uber city by city," Cuomo said today. "This would be a statewide franchise."

The governor was asked about legislation pending in Albany after Uber on Tuesday joined Lyft in pushing for the measures that would allow the companies to operate on Long Island and in upstate cities and towns, including Buffalo and Rochester. The bills wouldn’t apply the new regulations, which include an overhaul of insurance rules, to New York City.

Cuomo’s support of the measures including the largest U.S. city undercuts Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has backing from the city’s yellow-cab industry and in July sought to cap the growth of the ride-sharing companies to study their affect on traffic and the environment. It’s the latest move in a feud between the two Democrats, self-proclaimed friends for more than 20 years who have battled on everything from raising income taxes on the wealthy to mass-transit funding.

Karen Hinton, a de Blasio spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alix Anfang, an Uber spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement responding to Cuomo’s comments that the company’s focus remains on creating an estimated 13,000 jobs upstate and on Long Island.

"State leaders are hearing the voices of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are clamoring for services like Uber across the state," Anfang said.

Uber general manager Josh Mohrer said at a news conference in Albany on Tuesday that more than 350,000 state residents outside New York City have downloaded the Uber application on their phones, which enables them to hail drivers.

While Lyft pressed for statewide regulatory changes during the last legislative session that ended in June, Uber remained on the sidelines. Albany-area restaurant owners joined Lyft in its pursuit of the changes, saying that local taxi service has been unreliable.

Vic Christopher, who owns restaurants in Troy, said at a roundtable discussion on the legislation Wednesday in the capital that poor cab service can make for a bad customer experience.

"I have an anxiety attack when I’m asked to call a cab," Christopher said. "I don’t know what to expect."

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