Latimer Urges Astorino Not to Ban Ridesharing Companies from Westchester
Astorino’s Program to Bring Ridesharing to Westchester Explained
Jenkins Responds to Ridesharing Presser
WHITE PLAINS, NY — June 28, 2017 — Senator George Latimer, followed by County Executive Rob Astorino, and County Legislator Ken Jenkins each presented their views regarding ridesharing as follows…
Senator George Latimer called on Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino not to ban ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft from operating in Westchester County this morning on Monday, June 26, 2017. Latimer also called for a balanced, three-pronged approach to ensure that ridesharing benefits Westchester County residents.
“After hearing from hundreds of residents with diverse opinions, it’s clear that we need a practical, pragmatic approach to the sharing economy. Leaders ought to lead, explain their thinking and then accept whatever response may follow without trying to hide,” said Senator Latimer. “These companies operate practically everywhere else in America. New York State is the last place to embrace them, which gives counties like ours the chance to take a balanced approach rather than simply trying to pretend that services like this don’t exist or regulate them out of existence.”
“First, it’s important that we not opt out. The service is too well-used and appreciated by a wide swath of the citizenry,” Latimer continued. “Second, we should work with county officials in Nassau and Suffolk County to jointly develop a set of shared regulations that would improve safety for riders and conditions for drivers. Based on that partnership, we can draft legislation for state executive and legislative consideration. Between our three counties, we have a combined population of over 4 million people, right next to New York City – a constituency that could not be ignored. Besides, no changes can happen without State approval anyway.”
“Finally, we need to monitor the way these ridesharing companies work under current practices and document if worst-case scenarios are actually occurring,” Latimer concluded. “We need real data to differentiate between what’s a legitimate concern and what’s fear-mongering.”
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Astorino’s Program to Bring Ridesharing to Westchester Explained
Joined by executives from Lyft and Uber, County Executive Robert P. Astorino on Tuesday, June 27, 2017th announced an innovative solution to allow ride-sharing companies to operate in Westchester while increasing rider safety by creating a voluntary pool of fingerprinted drivers from which companies like Lyft, Uber and others could hire.
New state regulations, which go into effect on Thursday, June 29, 2017th contain a major flaw that put the safety of Westchester residents at risk because they do not require ride-sharing drivers outside of New York City to be fingerprinted. Working with Lyft and Uber, Astorino developed a plan that will enable Westchester residents to know whether their ridesharing driver’s background screening includes a fingerprint check.
“Our goal was to find the right balance between safety and convenience,” said Astorino. “Ride-sharing companies provide the public with an important transportation option. But if that convenient ride is not safe, it’s not really an option at all.”
The new program, the first of its kind in the country, is called “Thumbs Up.” Participating drivers whose fingerprints show they have no criminal record will be issued a “Thumbs Up” decal by the county to be posted on their windshield to alert customers that their driver has undergone this critical level of screening.
While no screening can be 100 percent foolproof, law enforcement officials say fingerprinting provides the best safeguards. Not only does fingerprinting offer access to the best data bases of criminal activity, but those data bases are constantly being updated. This means law enforcement can be alerted to criminal activity that occurs after a driver is hired, not just before.
“Ride sharing is not supposed to be hitchhiking with an app,” said Astorino. “The public has the right to know that the driver picking them up has been fully screened for a criminal record. The ‘Thumbs Up’ sticker in the windshield will tell riders that their driver has gone through the most complete background check. That’s a level of protection Westchester riders deserve.”
Lyft and Uber said they will encourage their drivers in Westchester to participate in the program and thanked County Executive Astorino and his team for bringing ride-sharing to Westchester.
“The agreement with County Executive Astorino and the Westchester County Legislature ensures that residents and visitors will have access to safe, affordable transportation options,” said Sarfraz Maredia, General Manager, Uber Tri-State. “By working with Uber to bring the benefits of ridesharing to Westchester, County leaders recognize the importance of technology and innovation in their community.”
In addition to supporting the “Thumbs Up” program, Lyft and Uber said they would make their technology available to the county to help with traffic management and would work with the county on potential revenue opportunities at county facilities, such as the Westchester County Airport.
Here’s how the “Thumbs Up” program works: Starting tomorrow, interested drivers can go to the county’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to be finger-printed for $90. Within 48-72 hours, the results of the background check will be returned and entered into a database of fingerprinted drivers. Drivers who pass the check will be issued a “Thumbs Up” certificate and decal for their window. Starting in August, drivers can go to Morpho Trust, a New York State authorized fingerprinting service, and have a report run for $102. The results will be sent to the TLC. The county will receive a $15 administration fee for each check it administers.
For years, companies such as Uber and Lyft have lobbied the state to allow for ride-sharing throughout New York. The state’s new ride-sharing law stipulates that the Department of Motor Vehicles has oversight over ride-sharing services, as opposed to local governments, which have oversight over taxicabs and limousines.
Under the law, Westchester County can opt out of the state law at any time. To help ensure the smooth operation of the law, Lyft and Uber have agreed to work with the county and participate in regular oversight meetings.
The county is also going to continue to work with the taxi and limousine companies already licensed in Westchester to ease their regulatory burdens so there is a level playing field for all types of for-hire transportation. The county has also asked Uber and Lyft to develop the technology to put the “Thumbs Up” certification into their app, so that riders will know ahead of time if they’ve been fingerprinted.
Edward Stoppelmann, president of Red Oak Transportation, said his company and others will work with the county on this effort to ensure safety remains paramount in the industry.
“The Livery Industry Council of Westchester, which represents the for-hire companies in the County, will continue working with the County Executive and TLC leadership to ensure that public safety remains its top priority,” said Stoppelmann. “TLC licensed drivers have always been subject to mandatory fingerprinting and drug testing, and are an integral part of the ground transportation system here in Westchester serving our residents, corporate citizens, and visitors.”
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County Legislator and Candidate for County Executive Ken Jenkins Responds to Ride Sharing Presser
One Thing Left Out: Paying a Living Wage
As the debate around ride-sharing wages on, today, June 27, 2017th with County Executive Rob Astorino recommending a voluntary fingerprinting program for drivers, Ken Jenkins issued a statement recognizing an important omission in the debate: the treatment of the drivers.
“The great state of NY must do all it can to protect passengers at the local level,” said Jenkins. “That is a discussion that must continue. But we must also consider the fact that ride-share drivers are paid as contractors. This means first and foremost that they are, in many if not most cases, paid far less than a living wage. It also means they’re not able to receive any benefits. And it means that the state does not receive tax revenue for thousands and thousands of drivers. This must end.”
More, the state legislator passed the bill, and the governor signed into law, a provision that left counties with zero revenue from the ride-sharing services. Rather than assigning a portion of the revenues, which was previously 4%, to county governments, the state is taking it all.
“Ridesharing is here to stay, and that’s a good thing,” said Jenkins. “But we’re not talking about one of the most important components of it: the drivers themselves. And that’s not to mention that counties are left out in the cold on any revenue it brings. It’s a bad deal for drivers, and a bad deal for counties.”
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