The countdown is on for Upstate ridesharing


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – When state lawmakers moved up the starting date for ridesharing services in New York, they simply brought the rest of the state into parity with New York City, which has had ridesharing, also called ride hailing, for nearly three years.

Many Western New Yorkers who travel a lot already have the Uber and Lyft apps on their smartphones, and as of next Thursday, June 29, they will be able to use them here, but the early rollout is leading to a flurry of activity among local government officials.

Brion Ross is a Fort Lauderdale attorney, who was passing through the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Ross said he travels by air about twice a month, and uses taxis when they are convenient, but prefers the app-based ridesharing services, Uber and Lyft.

“You can be on the plane and land, and request the Uber or the Lyft service, get off the plane and your car is waiting for you. At times when there may not be a lot of taxi cabs or the weather is more inclement, it gives you more time to plan for you and your family.”

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority officials have been working on their plans for the ridesharing rollout for months. New York’s new law defines the rideshare operators as Transportation Network Companies or TNC’s.

William Vanecek, the NFTA’s Director of Aviation said their plan calls for each TNC to pay a one time upfront fee of $10,000 to cover new signage at both the Buffalo and Niagara Falls airports, plus a cost per rider.

“Each time an Uber or Lyft driver drops somebody off at the airport, they will have to pay $4 to the airport, and each time they pick somebody up at the airport, they will have to pay a $4 fee to the airport as well.”

How will airport officials track those rides? They are setting up a virtual barrier–they call it a “Geo-Fence”–around the roadway at the airport’s terminal entrance. A third party will track, by GPS, every time someone with an Uber or Lyft app enters that Geo-Fence zone.

“When an Uber or Lyft vehicle comes through that fence, we can track, based on their operating system–which is GPS-based as well–because that is how they know where their passengers are. That triggers that they owe us a payment for that particular ride.”

But the ridesharing will also take a bite out of the airports’ parking revenues, which bring in millions of dollars a year, and fees the taxi and limousine services pay. Airport officials are presenting their plan to the NFTA Board of Commissioners, Thursday.

The City of Buffalo is holding a job fair for Lyft drivers at the Buffalo Employment and Training Center, Tuesday, and officials are expected to talk about the city’s ridesharing logistics at that time.

As far as Uber’s recruiting, a spokesperson said they already have more than 5,000 prospective drivers in the process of signing upby submitting to background checks, and providing insurance information.

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