NAACP supports ridesharing for Buffalo

Posted at 7:05 PM, Mar 20, 2017

(Updated with link to report here: https://www.scribd.com/document/342186194/Upstate-Transit-Landscape-and-The-Need-For-Ridesharing)

A new report issued by the NAACP New York State Conference highlights what it calls "Transit Desert" areas in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany.

The NAACP defines "Transit Desert" areas as neighborhoods where people have to walk long distances to get public transportation and deal with sporadic schedules during nights and weekends.  

Broadway-Fillmore and South Buffalo were listed as two examples of "Transit Desert" areas.

"It is now clearer than ever that allowing ridesharing in all of New York's cities is not just a matter of economic common sense, it's also a matter of economic justice," said Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference.

According to the report, 38,000 low income families in the Buffalo and Niagara region do not have a car and it is feared those families could be losing out on job opportunities, especially during weekends and nights, because they have to rely on irregular buses.

The conference believes that ridesharing services like Uber could help.

Reaction to the report was mixed from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA).  On one hand, the NFTA welcomed the idea of ridesharing as a way to "compliment" its service.  On the other, the authority felt the report was politically motivated and incorrectly identified "Transit Desert" areas.

"We are not door-to-door.  We are a public transit system" said C. Douglas Hartmayer, Director of Public Affairs for the NFTA.

Hartmayer said planners look at schedules several times a year to see what works best - and they do consider the needs of second and third shift workers. However, there are limitations.

"We work very hard, our planners do, in placing our buses on the most popular routes where they will service the largest amount of people possible," added Hartmayer.

Will ridesharing services like Uber work in poor neighborhoods?  

Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., Director of the U.B. Center for Urban Studies has doubts because Uber drivers make small commissions and try to target popular, crowded areas where riders need long trips - such as to the airport.

Another problem is how ridesharing is paid for.  "In part, to use Uber in the most efficient and effective way, you have to use a credit card," said Taylor.

The center's director said there are other issues that need to be looked at, such as, how ridesharing would impact minority taxi drivers, and what opportunities it might offer for new drivers.

Overall, Taylor said Uber should not be seen as the complete solution and making adjustments to the existing public transportation structure are very important.