Uber Set to Begin Push Into Long Island, Upstate N.Y. Cities

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UBER HAMPTONS

The Uber app is demonstrated in New York on Aug. 6, 2014.

Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg
  • New statewide regulations needed to allow ride-sharing
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo already supports regulation changes

Uber Technologies Inc. is beginning a push into Long Island and upstate New York cities, including Buffalo and Rochester.

The digital ride-sharing company started its effort Tuesday with a news conference in the state Capitol in Albany. General manager Josh Mohrer released a report showing that Uber would create 13,000 jobs and generate $80 million in fares its first year operating in the regions, home to more than 10 million residents.

Currently, the only access to Uber on Long Island is for riders in Nassau County taking trips to and from New York City. Buffalo is the only U.S. city with a National Football League team where Uber doesn’t operate.

Uber will now be taking its jobs report on tour statewide, unveiling local statistics as it seeks to build support. It will square off against the traditional taxi industry, as it has in New York City and around the world as its mobile-phone application shakes up established markets.

Before the service can broaden its reach, the New York legislature must overhaul insurance regulations. Those changes failed to get support in the session that ended in June. Lawmakers are expected to take them up again when they reconvene in January.

Mohrer said more than 350,000 New York residents outside New York City have already downloaded the Uber application on their phones, which enables them to hail drivers.

"Now is the time for the Empire State to embrace what most states have already embraced," Mohrer said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said in July that he supports a statewide regulatory system for Uber and other ride-sharing companies such as Lyft Inc.

At the time, Cuomo was stepping into a fight between Uber and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was attempting to halt the company’s growth so its effect on traffic congestion and the environment could be studied. Under pressure from the governor and an advertising blitz by Uber, de Blasio capitulated, allowing the company, which already had more than 19,000 vehicles in the city, to continue operating while the study is conducted.

In June, Lyft, which like Uber is based in San Francisco, agreed to pay $300,000 in a settlement with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after it began operating in Rochester and Buffalo in April 2014 without necessary state and local approvals. It didn’t admit to wrongdoing as part of the deal. While Lyft pressed for the statewide regulatory changes during the last legislative session, Uber remained on the sidelines.

Albany-area restaurant owners joined Lyft in its pursuit of the changes last year, saying that local taxi service has been unreliable.

Assemblyman John McDonald, an Albany-area Democrat who supports Uber’s statewide push, voiced similar concerns about cabs in the region.

"Taxi service struggles at times, and I hear it not only from constituents and business owners, I hear it, oddly enough, from my own colleagues from the New York State Assembly," McDonald said at the news conference Tuesday. "It shouldn’t be an experience trying to get from the train station to the state Capitol."

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