WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - As Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services get set to officially launch in Westchester County, local officials have mixed opinions regarding the popular programs.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced on Tuesday that ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft were coming to the area after striking a unique deal to ensure the safety of potential passengers.
The new program, dubbed “Thumbs Up,” is the first of its kind in the country. Drivers whose fingerprints have no criminal record will be given a “thumbs up” decal from the county that will be posted on their windshield to let customers know they are in good, safe hands.
“Ride sharing is not supposed to be hitchhiking with an app,” Astorino said when announcing the program. “The public has the right to know that the driver picking them up has been fully screened for a criminal record. The ‘Thumbs Up’ sticker in the windshield will tell riders that their driver has gone through the most complete background check. That’s a level of protection Westchester riders deserve.”
In a statement, Reclaim New York Director Brandon Muir praised both the decision to bring ride sharing to Westchester, but to do so safely through the “Thumbs Up” program.
“It is great to see Westchester County find a creative solution that keeps ride-hailing apple like Uber and Left on the road, and ready to serve residents,” he stated. “Albany’s dysfunction kept New Yorkers from having access to these apps for far too long. It is doubly bad when you consider the apps bring a huge economic spark, easier transportation and less drunk driving.”
Officials with the Business Council of Westchester, who helped lobby members of the New York State Legislature to bring ride sharing to the county, said that the fingerprinting program was “a needed first step, but more work will need to be done,” to ensure public safety.
“The BCW fought hard for this “local control” and in one iteration of the legislation, it was included,” Executive Vice President John Ravitz stated. “However, as the Senate, Assembly and Governor’s office negotiated the bill, the automatic local control was dropped and replaced with an ‘opt out’ provision, which places the burden on counties and cities with populations of 100,000 or more to affirmatively choose to opt out of the law, thereby allowing Transportation Network Companies to be regulated under existing county Taxi and Limousine Commission.
“The on-going conversations with the New York State Legislature must continue and the BCW will continue to work with its coalition partners during next year’s Albany legislative session to ensure that public safety is protected and issues are addressed. Public safety and security should be paramount. That is what Westchester’s citizens deserve.”
Virginia Perez, the Chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislation Committee, whose father was a taxi driver for decades, criticized the deal to bring ride sharing to the county, stating that it “puts traditional taxi companies at a significant competitive disadvantage and disturbingly compromises the safety and security of the riding public.”
“My father has made his living as a taxi driver for more than 30 years. During that time he has complied with every rule and regulation implemented by the Westchester County and Yonkers TLC. Not just because he was legally compelled to but because he understands that regulations like criminal background checks and fingerprinting are essential to keeping riders safe.
“I have spent my entire life standing up to bullies and fighting for justice for people who are being oppressed and I believe the fight to make Uber and Lyft to follow the same rules as TLC drivers who have been working in our communities for decades is a righteous fight. If I had been given the opportunity to vote to ‘opt out’ of New York State’s ill-conceived ridesharing law I would have done so proudly and enthusiastically.”
Ride sharing officially comes to Westchetser County as of 12:01 a.m. on Thursday. More information can be found here .