WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - Ride sharing is coming to Westchester County, albeit, in a unique way.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced on Tuesday that ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft were coming to the area, while managing to increase rider safety by creating a pool of fingerprinted drivers that can be hired by said companies.
According to Astorino, new state regulations, which go into effect on Thursday, “contain a major flaw that put the safety of Westchester residents at risk, because they do not require ride-sharing drivers outside of New York City to be fingerprinted.” In Westchester, a plan has been established that will enable users to know whether their driver’s background screening included a fingerprint check.
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.
“Our goal was to find the right balance between safety and convenience,” Astorino said when announcing the program. “Ride-sharing companies provide the public with an important transportation option. But if that convenient ride is not safe, it’s not really an option at all.
“Ride sharing is not supposed to be hitchhiking with an app. 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.”
Astorino said that in addition to the “Thumbs Up” program, officials from Lyft and Uber will make their technology available to the county in an effort to assist with traffic management. They also intend to “work with the county on potential revenue opportunities at county facilities,” such as the County Center or Westchester County Airport.
“New York State has passed a terribly flawed TNC bill that compromises the safety of Westchester County residents and puts the County Legislature in an untenable situation,” Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz said in a statement.
“It is also clear that the residents of Westchester County want to have Uber and Lyft operating in Westchester and the County Executive’s plan to place decals on the cars of drivers who have submitted to and passed criminal background checks with fingerprinting is in my opinion the best scenario that could be reached with Uber and Lyft at this time.”
Beginning on Wednesday, interested drivers will have the opportunity to go to the county’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to be fingerprinted for $90. Within three days, the results of a background check will be returned and entered into a database of fingerprinted drivers. Those who pass the check will be issued their “Thumbs Up” certificate and decal.
Edward Stoppelmann, president of Red Oak Transportation, said his company and others will work with the county on this effort to ensure safety remains paramount in the industry.
“The Livery Industry Council of Westchester, which represents the for-hire companies in the County, will continue working with the County Executive and TLC leadership to ensure that public safety remains its top priority,” he stated. “TLC licensed drivers have always been subject to mandatory fingerprinting and drug testing, and are an integral part of the ground transportation system here in Westchester serving our residents, corporate citizens, and visitors.”
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