On Friday, Aug. 19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that could pave the way for ride-sharing services in the Capital District and, more generally, is intended to improve taxi service in the region. The legislation allows local municipalities to enter into agreements with the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) to share certain administrative responsibilities as well as to “coordinate and standardize” regulatory and administrative procedure with respect to taxicab services, which will include the implementation of a “unified complaint process.”
“Customer complaints have abounded in recent years,” wrote the bill’s sponsor, Senator Neil Breslin (D-44), in an appended memo. “In a region that is so reliant on travelers being able to move quickly and comfortably between, for instance, the Albany International Airport or the Rensselaer Train Station to their destination, taxi service must be of the highest quality and consistency. This has not been the case.”
Calling this a “critical point in the region’s history,” he pointed to the new convention center in Albany, the new casino in Schenectady and the potential for ride-sharing in the region, saying that the goal of the legislation is to “give local governments and CDTA the ability to work cooperatively” to improve taxi service for those who visit the Capital District.
While CDTA will not be making licensing or registration decisions for the municipalities, it would allow drivers to obtain their medallion from a central source, whereas they have previously been required to licensed by individual municipalities with varying requirements. Additionally, the centralized administration will make it easier to regulate a ride-sharing industry—should it ever come to the region, as many hope it will.
In the Assembly, the bill was sponsored by John McDonald (D-108) and introduced by himself and co-sponsors Patricia Fahy (D-109), Phil Steck (D-110) and Angelo Santabarbara (D-111). Steck, who opposed other legislation directly relating to the establishment of a potential ride-sharing program—thus coming under fire from at least one prominent local Uber supporter—explained that he wanted first to see a centralized regulatory agency in place to oversee such a program. “I’m not against it,” he said. “I don’t want to ban them from operating. The question is the conditions under which they operate.” Under the recently signed bill, he said, CDTA will function in much the same way that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission functions, allowing it to work with municipalities to set uniform regulations and requirements.
The bill ultimately passed the legislature handily and became effective immediately upon the governor’s signature. “I am pleased the Governor has signed legislation I co-sponsored,” wrote Senator George Amedore (R-105) in a press release that evening. “With this new law, municipalities will have the option to use CDTA as a centralized administrator in an effort to reduce the regulatory burden on local governments, streamline the process, and create a more uniform set of standards across the region. CDTA already has a proven track record of improving transportation systems in the region, and this new law has the potential to greatly improve service for all customers in the Capital Region.
“I still believe that Upstate communities desperately need ride-sharing services, like Uber and Lyft, and will continue to work toward that goal,” he said. “But this is a big step forward to improve the quality of existing transportation options.”