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Buffalo Councilman takes big step in Uber battle

Proposed amendment set to legalize Uber in Buffalo
Posted at 9:33 PM, Nov 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-29 18:57:26-05

Buffalo is poised to take its biggest step yet towards bringing ride-sharing to the Queen City.

Councilmember Joseph Golombek is set to propose an Amendment to Chapter 437 of the City Ordinances, which would allow for and regulate ride-sharing services in the Queen City.

The Amendment would include “Technology Network Companies” – or app-based ride-sharing companies – in the law that governs Buffalo’s transportation and livery services.  It would require ride-sharing drivers to obtain a license issued by the Commissioner of Permit and Inspection Services, and would require criminal background checks. 

Although ride-sharing is currently illegal in Upstate New York because of State insurance laws, this amendment would, if approved, make ride-sharing technically legal in Buffalo.  Chapter 437 must be amended in order for Uber or Lyft to legally operate in the city, regardless of their legality in the state.

“When New York State legalizes Uber, Buffalo will be able to go full-throttle forward,” Golombek told 7 Eyewitness News.

“[The Common Council] doing this early, as soon as we are doing it, maybe this will push Albany sooner rather than later.”

However, don’t expect this to be a quick process.

Golombek acknowledges to 7 Eyewitness News that he doesn’t expect this amendment to immediately pass.  The North District Councilmember hopes to use this as a springboard for discussion between the Common Council, Uber, and the taxicab industry.

“What this law does is give Uber a little bit of a push right now… I think if we have good legislation in front of us, I think this is a huge step in the right direction, that we would be supportive of Uber in a short period of time,” Golombek said.

New York State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes says she plans to promote this amendment effort in Albany. 

Peoples-Stokes is a vocal supporter of legalizing ride-sharing in New York State and is a member of the Legislature’s insurance committee.

“Quite frankly, this is the century for ride sharing. We can’t keep trying to hold back from that. We have to move forward with it, but there has to be a compromised position that comes to fruition,” Peoples-Stokes said.

Golombek hopes to have the Ordinance amendment approved by early 2017. 

“I’m hoping that this [amendment] does get the ball rolling in the right direction, and that everything will work out so that we can have Uber for the next time we have playoffs in Buffalo.  Football, hockey, or more likely, basketball,” Golombek said jokingly.