Uber, Lyft celebrate first day of ride sharing in Western New York

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The day many Western New Yorkers have been waiting years for has finally arrived: Ride sharing is now up and running across New York State.

“It’s a historic day!” said Stephanie Smith, senior public policy manager for Uber, who made the trip to Buffalo for the roll out of the service here.

Before, state law only allowed ride sharing in New York City, but earlier this year, state lawmakers passed a bill expanding ride sharing to the rest of the state.

Uber officials tell News 4 a lot of people were pushing to bring the service here for a long time. “On social media, emails, we have been reached out to by the sports teams, everyone really begging for us to be able to bring the product here,” Smith explained. “Thankfully, the legislature passed regulations that will allow us to operate.”

To celebrate the first day of ride share services operating in Western New York, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, a longtime advocate for ride sharing in our region, took a ride with a Lyft driver to work at City Hall Thursday. “The ride was good,” Brown said, “nice and smooth. The driver was great, polite, very nice.”

Brown’s driver, Barbra Dowell, told News 4 she and the mayor had a nice chat during the ride to city hall. She says she’s looking forward to chatting with many other passengers in the future. “I’m actually a real people person and the best thing about getting in the car is the conversations,” she said.

Dowell is one of thousands of Western New Yorkers who have been hired on to drive for a ride sharing service here.

Uber reps say they had no problem finding enough people willing to drive. “I think they’re curious. Maybe folks have used it if they’ve traveled, so they’ve seen the benefits of it using it, now they’re seeing if they can make some money, extra cash,” Smith explained.

“This is now opening up economic opportunities for people in the community to make supplemental income, whether that’s someone that’s retired that’s looking to make some extra money or someone that may have a full time job who’s looking to save some money to go on vacation,” she added, pointing out that drivers decide when they’ll be online to pick up fares and when they won’t be available.

Passengers can use their apps to see a real-time map of online drivers in their area, and track a drivers progress toward their location after they’ve ordered a ride.

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