Rally aims to bring Lyft back to Buffalo

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) – Supporters of the ridesharing service Lyft are making a last minute push to bring that transportation option back to Buffalo. With just three days left in the legislative session, fans of the service held a rally to call on lawmakers to approve changes to the rules to allow ride sharing drivers to operate in New York State again.

“Hopefully we’ll be coming back to Buffalo soon enough!” Sara Lasner, director of community affairs for Lyft, told supporters and drivers who had crowded into the lobby at the Amherst Chamber of Commerce for a rally Friday morning.

The rally was meant to send a message to lawmakers that it’s time to clear the road blocks that are preventing ride sharing services from operating in the state, specifically a rule about providing commercial level insurance. “We need that law to change so that we can provide very very extensive coverage but there’s a pretty minute detail in the law that does not allow us to do that currently,” explained Diana Dellamere, public policy manager for Lyft.

Lyft is currently only available in New York City in this state, and only as part of an agreement between the state and the company that it would only use commercial drivers, for whom there are the same issues preventing the company from providing insurance.

Lyft was only operating in Buffalo for a few months last year before having to agree to suspend the service until it could meet the state and local rules for “for hire” drivers and vehicles.

With just the touch of a button, app users could order a ride from another community member who had signed on to drive in their personal vehicle.
Between April and August of 2014, Lyft averaged 2500 rides a week in Buffalo, with around 500 drivers signed up.

“I was kind of looking for a way to save up for school and Lyft allowed me to do that in between taking care of my kids, working, and my other obligations that I have,” said Chad Snowden, a veteran who signed up to drive for Lyft when the service was launched here in April, 2014.

Snowden said he was at the rally on Friday to push for support for changes to the laws for “for hire” drivers and to dispel myths about ridesharing services. “I think the biggest misconception about Lyft is the fact that it’s a disruption to taxicab services. One of the great things is that Lyft is another option,”
he said.

If the Lyft supporters who gathered this week are successful in getting the law changed, that would open door for other ride sharing services, like Uber to open up shop in New York State, too, as long as those drivers can meet other requirements that cover things like criminal background and DMV checks that are included in the proposed law. The bill has already been introduced in the Senate and Assembly.

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