Erie County to spend $100k toward ridesharing

Posted at 10:09 AM, Dec 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-06 18:37:46-05

The Erie County Legislature announced Tuesday it will allocate $100,000 toward efforts to legalize ridesharing across New York State.  The Legislature will be giving the money to Visit Buffalo Niagara to help their campaign pressuring Albany to pass legislation that would legalize ridesharing apps.

The funds are included in the 2017 Erie County budget.  The legislature unanimously approved the budget Tuesday afternoon.

Republican Majority Leader Joe Lorigo said Buffalo is lagging behind other cities and losing a competitive edge because ridesharing is still banned.

"When Kazakhstan has Uber and Buffalo doesn't, we're behind the 8 ball," he said.  "It's definitely a great investment of public money.  It's a real economy driver.  It's going to increase safety on our roads and allow economic flexibility for people who are looking for extra income."

Visit Buffalo Niagara is working to create a detailed spending plan for the $100,000.  But since Uber and Lyft have their own lobbying efforts, the tourism group plans to focus on pressuring state lawmakers in other ways.

"That's why we're going to be strong with a media campaign," said Patrick Kaler, CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara.  "Telling the stories.  Getting the people at a grassroots levels to help tell our story as why it is important for us to have ridesharing in our destination."

Apps like Uber and Lyft aren't legally allowed to operate in most of the state due to existing insurance laws.  The state has allowed an exception for New York City, but Buffalo and other cities still don't have access to the services.

On Monday, Cheektowaga's Police Chief sent a letter urging Governor Cuomo to pass legislation allowing ridesharing services.