Category Archives: Transportation

New poll shows widespread support for ride-hailing

A new poll, sponsored by the ride-hailing industry, shows 80 percent of people living outside of New York City support the legalization of services like Uber and Lyft. The poll found support remained consistent across political parties and different regions of the state. Residents of Westchester and Rockland counties had the highest support, approaching 90 percent. In the polling industry, they call those “Mother Theresa” numbers.

Support for ride-hailing has always been high. A Siena poll from earlier this year found nearly 70 percent of all New Yorkers supported legalization.

The Business Council of New York State, and our president, Heather C. Briccetti, have been extremely vocal in our support for the legislation. It was one of our top legislative priorities last year and will remain at the top of our list for 2017. But, what are the chances of it actually passing? That remains to be seen. Governor Cuomo and key members of his staff have been outspoken in their support, and leading members of the state Legislature have also said they would like to see it passed. Unfortunately, certain special interests are opposed to the bill as currently structured.

We remain hopeful the legislation will get approved next year and will do all we can to support its passage. Meanwhile, Uber recently relaunched an online petition aimed at showing the widespread support for ride-hailing. You can sign that petition here.

Uber release highlights economic impact

Officials from the car-sharing service Uber were joined by Business Council President Heather Briccetti, elected officials, and local stakeholders at a news conference in the New York State Capitol yesterday.

Business Council President Heather Briccetti joined by Uber, elected officials, local stakeholders.

The news conference was called to highlight a newly released economic impact study that, among other findings, states Uber would create as many as thirteen thousand jobs in its first year of operation in upstate New York.

The full study, which can be read here, goes on to say that 350 thousand New Yorkers in areas not currently serviced by Uber have downloaded the app. Uber NY General Manager Josh Mohrer says this shows people throughout upstate New York are clamoring for the service.

In addition to yesterday’s news conference and study release, Uber has also launched an online petition giving everyday New Yorkers the chance to voice their approval of bringing Uber to all of New York State. You can sign the petition by clicking here.

It’s time to make way for a sharing economy

It is rare that New York State moves to pass legislation that would have an immediate and positive impact on the Hudson Valley economy. It is even rarer that the bill would not cost taxpayers a penny and has bipartisan support in both houses. Fortunately, such a piece of legislation (A.6090/S.4280) exists and is supported by a number of organizations, including The Business Council of New York State. This particular piece of legislation, which would help regulate the growing “sharing economy,” specifically as it pertains to automobiles and insurance companies, should be passed before the end of the year.

The “sharing economy” is perhaps best exemplified by companies like Lyft and Uber, but there are a whole host of businesses just waiting for New York State to give them the regulatory tools necessary to open up shop. Passing this legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Cahill, would give New Yorkers the services they want while at the same time giving insurance companies the assurances they need.

Anyone who has lived and traveled in cities like Poughkeepsie, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo knows that the current transit options are woefully inadequate. The lack of consistently reliable public transportation stifles economic development and leaves visitors with a negative impression of our communities and our state.

Ride sharing and other “collaborative consumption” innovations have several benefits to consumers and the economy as a whole. The utilization of underused assets allows ride-sharers to spend less money and moves more people with fewer vehicles. Ride-sharing saves resources, energy and physical space.

The growth of the “sharing economy” is indisputable. A recent report in Forbes Magazine estimated that the revenue flowing through the “sharing economy” surpassed $3.5 billion, with growth expectations that exceeded 25 percent. New York should be at the forefront in encouraging new economic models in a safe and responsible manner. By requiring that group policy insurance be in place for vehicles taking part in ride sharing, the Cahill bill provides a balanced approach to the necessary protections for consumers, insurers and the public at large.

New York has a history of leading the nation when it comes to adopting legislative policies that affect real change in the way we all live and work. Unfortunately, when it comes to the so-called “new economy”, New York’s policies are falling woefully behind. It is time for the Empire State to show true leadership and allow its citizens to take advantage of the benefits technology is affording us all.

Heather C. Briccetti Esq.
President and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

*a version of this OpEd ran in the Poughkeepsie Journal on 6/17/15

Daily News gets it right

Since bursting on to the scene several years ago, Uber and Lyft have upended, or disrupted, the traditional taxi system. If you’re unfamiliar with how these services work, basically you download the company’s app on your smartphone and when you’re looking for a ride you open up the app, make sure it has you in the correct location and then ask for a pickup. The app then alerts the nearest driver that you’re ready to be picked up and in a few minutes you’re on your way. The convenience of both pickup and payment, along with the clean cars and friendly drivers, has made Uber and Lyft very popular.

But, like most emerging technologies, the country’s regulatory agencies have been slow to keep up. There are some legitimate concerns about insurance and licensing and the companies are working to address them. In New York City, the traditional taxi companies have been lobbying hard to have the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) step in and provide stricter regulations of For Hire Vehicle (FHV) apps like Uber and Lyft.

The regulations that have been proposed (read them here) have been met with considerable pushback, not only by the industry, but by business groups like us. The New York City media has been following the story closely and today the Daily News weighed in with an editorial siding with Uber and Lyft. We encourage you to read the whole piece, it’s not too long. But we did want to single out a key section:

“The TLC must recognize that it has no hope of ruling a dynamic and fast-changing market. One telling confirmation:

Consistent with its obligation to know who’s doing what on the streets, the commission demanded to know how many rides Uber’s 17,745 cars provide daily and where they are picking up passengers. Uber provided the data on April 1. The TLC has yet to produce even the most basic analysis of the numbers.”

For now, Uber and Lyft are only allowed to operate in New York City; they are prohibited in the rest of the state. We are working to enact legislation that would make Uber and Lyft available statewide. There’s been a huge push in our home base of the Capital Region. Several well-known restaurateurs have been leading the charge. We believe that Uber and Lyft would be key sources of economic development throughout upstate and remain hopeful we can get this legislation passed.

Don’t be “foolish” with state surplus

In an editorial, the Staten Island Advance adds its voice to The Business Council’s call for state leaders to use the state’s estimated $5 billion in surplus money for infrastructure improvements.

“The surplus money would bring a one-shot infusion of revenue, not a permanent increase in the revenue stream. So calls to use it to increase funding for education or health care, for example, are foolish.

“What happens after the $5 billion is exhausted? The people of the state would be left with recurring annual bills permanently ratcheted up based upon the one-time infusion.

“Better to spend the money on a one-time fix of the state’s roads and bridges that will hold for a while.”

Read the complete editorial here.

Business Council CEO: NY should repeal the Scaffold Law to maximize infrastructure investment

In an op-ed published in the Syracuse Post-Standard, Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of the Business Council, says “New York has a unique opportunity to jump-start its  infrastructure program, by using $5 billion in one-time state revenues for repair and replacement, and a chance to maximize the return on its investments by extending design-build contracting and repealing the Scaffold Law.

“It is encouraging to see consensus building around using a large portion of the state’s $5 billion, one-time settlement income for rebuilding public infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water, sewer and others. It makes sense to use one-shot revenues for capital projects rather than recurring expenses.

“It would make even more sense for the state to adopt key reforms to ensure taxpayers get the biggest bang for their infrastructure buck. They include repealing the antiquated and excessively expensive Scaffold Law and extending and expanding “design-build” project authority without costly add-ons.”

You can read the entire op-ed on the Syracuse.com Website.

Editorial: More cargo at Stewart Airport is good news for Mid-Hudson region

Recent news that New York state plans to move much of the air cargo operation now at JFK Airport to Stewart Airport, as part of a multi-phase plan to improve the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s airports, is a development that the Mid-Hudson region has long hoped for, the Middletown Times Herald-Record says in an editorial.

While the announcement makes it less likely that Stewart will be a major passenger hub in the foreseeable future, “this shift in cargo traffic does make use of the facilities already in place at Stewart with the promise of more to come, meaning more business opportunities locally and, most important, more jobs.”

The editorial continues, “This news should also improve the focus of local organizations and businesses that have spent a lot of time on the thankless task of recruiting more passenger business to Stewart.

State funding for Whiteface Mountain Veterans’ Memorial Highway

Governor Cuomo announced the state will provide $12 million in funding to repair the Whiteface Mountain Veterans’ Memorial Highway, in the Adirondacks.

The eight-mile scenic roadway is open from mid-May to mid-October each year and is traveled yearly by more than 28,500 vehicles as well as numerous cyclists and hikers going to Whiteface Mountain.

Governor Cuomo said, “The North Country is truly one of the most scenic and special places on the planet, and today the State is continuing to support the region and help draw tourists and outdoor enthusiasts to come experience all the Adirondacks have to offer.”

The Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), which maintains the highway, has not been able to acquire the resources to undertake comprehensive repairs.

New York receives federal loan for Tappan Zee

New York will receive a $1.6 billion loan to help pay for replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge through the federal government’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program., Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday, a big chunk of what his administration says is a nearly $4 billion project.

Governor Cuomo said, “This is a huge win for New York State, creating thousands of jobs, and an endorsement of one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in our history. It shows that despite over a decade of delay, New York can continue to build big.

The total project cost for the Tappan Zee replacement is expected to be between $3.9 and $4.8 billion.

Prevost lands $164.8 million contract

The Press-Republican reports that touring coach manufacturer Prevost has landed a $164.8 million contract to build 300 buses in the Town of Plattsburgh for the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority. The MTA Board of Directors approved a contract for the company to build clean-diesel buses at the Nova Bus in Plattsburgh.

Garry Douglas, president and CEO of the North Country Chamber of Commerce told the paper the contract is another next step forward in Plattsburgh’s emergence as one of North America’s top centers for the production of 21st-century transportation equipment.

The buses will be made in conjunction with the Nova Bus facility expansion that was approved by the Town of Plattsburgh Planning Board earlier this year but was contingent on Prevost’s ability to secure orders.  At the time, Prevost had estimated it could add 34 employees once the expansion is finished and up to 49 within three years.  Nova reported in April it had slightly more than 200 employees in Plattsburgh.