With the new session about to begin, this new form of public transportation is bound to be on many minds and in many committees. While it has prospered, providing both easy access to transportation and easy access to part-time work in cities such as New York, the future in other, less populated areas is not as clear.
Taxi companies in small cities struggle to stay in business as they provide an essential service to the many who do not have their own cars or who find public transportation limited. Any move to expand ride-hailing needs to be done so that it does not substitute fewer or more costly alternatives – or both – for those now being offered in suburban and rural areas.
Allowing Uber and its competitors to expand beyond the city also will require some education.
In Manhattan, where Uber is most visible, there are enough people with money and credit cards and smartphones to make informed choices, to summon a ride-hailing service if they don’t want to get a taxi or ride the subway or bus.
Legislators need to talk about how Uber and others will work in areas where people now can use a $5 bill to pay for a trip. If ride-hailing puts those taxis out of business, it could leave many stranded.
While there has been a lot of talk about the regulations that would cover Uber vehicles and drivers, talk that centers mostly about the proper level of insurance in case of accidents and the proper screening to make sure that drivers can be trusted, there is another consideration that is in danger of being pushed aside.
There has been talk of handling this issue in two phases. First, get the necessary legislation passed to allow ride-hailing services to expand beyond New York City. Then, make sure that there are enough services, enough vehicles, to accommodate those with disabilities.
Uber and it supporters might think that is a good idea. Legislators should not.
Uber has spent millions on lobbying and publicity stunts to put pressure on legislators, all with the theme that blocking ride-haling from the majority of the state is unfair. Well, there is nothing more unfair than discriminating against people who have enough trouble getting around as it is.
Uber can provide for those with disabilities. If it really wants to expand, it should offer that provision as yet another incentive to get legislative approval.