Ride-Booking Comes To Nassau

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By Won Jung and Betsy Abraham

Commuters preparing for a summer of overcrowded and canceled Long Island Rail Road trains have one more transit option to mitigate their transportation frustrations, with the launch last week of ride-sharing and -booking services such as Uber and Lyft.

With Nassau County still deciding whether or not to opt-out of the program, ride-sharing services officially began operation last week across the county, as well as in Suffolk County and upstate. Ride-sharing was banned on Long Island until the approval of the state budget in April, but services like Uber and Lyft have enjoyed popularity in major cities nationwide, including New York. However, bringing ride-sharing to Long Island also brought concerns about safety and what standards drivers would be held to.

Taxi stands will see increased competition, with the launch of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. (Photo by Won Jung)

According to Larry Blessinger, president of the Nassau Suffolk Taxi Owner’s Association, drivers for ride-sharing services are vetted with much looser regulations when compared to taxi drivers. Whereas taxi drivers are required to pass criminal, finger-printed background checks, ride-sharing drivers go through less stringent criminal checks that allow crucial details to fall through the cracks, he said. Uber especially has come under fire for issues with their drivers, and the website, Who’s Driving You, an initiative of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, reports there have been 233 allegations of sexual assault against Uber and Lyft drivers around the world.

“What it comes down to is that the riding public will be put in jeopardy,” Blessinger said. “You don’t know what’s behind the wheel of the car.”

However, Josh Gold, Uber’s policy director, said New York state’s legislation includes requiring that ride-sharing drivers go through annual checks of local, state and national criminal databases. Uber is also notified anytime one of their drivers gets a speeding ticket, DUI or any other event that involves their license. Once they hit a certain level of incidences, they can no longer be an active driver. According to Lyft’s website, drivers whose background checks reveal a violent crime, felony, drug-related offense, sexual offense or certain theft and property damage offenses, are ineligible to drive.

The Uber app
The Lyft app

Blessinger said that for his organization, the primary concern is the safety of the consumer. Moses Saxon, chairman of the Westbury Taxicab Commission, echoed those concerns, saying he was against ride-sharing coming to the county and local villages like Westbury.

“I don’t like them policing themselves. The village has no control over the operation. If they’re going to operate in the village, the village should have some control,” said Saxon. “We’re looking out for our passengers. We won’t want them to get in cars that are not safe.”

He noted there was already an abundance of taxi cabs at the train station, and this would only make the overcrowding worse.

“I think it’ll do a lot of damage to local taxi cabs. They’ll be paying for medallions and have to do fingerprints and background checks and the whole bit, but Uber and Lyft will be policing themselves,” Saxon said.

And while traditional taxi cab drivers have voiced concerns, for passengers, ride-sharing means more options.

“If I were to call a taxi, I probably would use an Uber, unless I was at the train station and then I could walk right into a taxi,” said Doug Tritz of New Hyde Park.

For local residents, ride-sharing can be a convenient alternative to driving or taking public transportation. Joseph Saladino (no relation to the Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor of the same name) said he’s used ride-sharing before, but whether or not he’ll use it over a traditional taxi service depends on which is one is more accessible.

“It’ll definitely benefit the consumer because they’ll be much more accessibility to a mode of transportation,” said Saladino, on what he thought about ride-sharing services coming to Nassau County.

In an April interview, Adrian Durbin, Lyft’s director of policy communications, said the service was actively recruiting drivers through their website and that the number of apps downloaded in each community will determine where the demand is highest.

“It’s clear that the vast majority of New Yorkers in Long Island and across the state are interested in having ride sharing in their communities,” Durbin said. “We’ve seen interest from both passengers and potential drivers who wish to utilize the Lyft platform.”

Gold said Uber has already seen a high demand for the service on Long Island.

“We’ve seen thousands of driver and rider sign-ups,” Gold said. “We know the demand and desire is there.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. Mr Blessinger owner of All Island Cab failed to mention that none of his taxi drivers are required to have a Nassau or Suffolk county TLC license. The drivers only have a license issued by the towns.
    Nassau county TLC is not requiring the taxi drivers to hold TLC LICENSES probably under orders from the corrupt taxi and limousine commission itself.
    The taxi drivers are not held by any standards. No rating no support for riders.
    They are quick to expose that in the entire world Uber has had 250 of fewer complaints. Wow!
    The problem is that I feel that if I go digging there will be a lot more complaints about taxi drivers all around the world.

    What I see here is that Nassau county TLC and Mr Blessinger are corrupt and Bias. Their taxi drivers do not hold the TLC License they are requesting that Uber drivers get.
    The problem is that most of the taxi drivers will not pass the random drug test and most of them will not even qualify for the TLC license because some owe child support and some will not pass the back ground check
    The background check done by the towns are also done only once when the drivers do apply.
    Uber background check is verified yearly.
    So there I think it is time for Uber to get into this information and ask why the Nassau county TLC is not enforcing the law on the taxi drivers but want to enforce on Uber/ Lyft drivers.

  2. One more comment.
    Competition is good and the consumer is the winner here Nothing is perfect but the word CHOICE is powerful.
    The problem here is that the taxi companies are not showing willingness to evolve and even try to offer a better service.
    They are facing a competitor that offers faster pick up times, better vehicles and so much more. Some even offer cold water cell phone chargers etc.
    So yes offcourse they do not want ride sharing operating in their territory and they are giving an excuse and their own drivers do not hold TLC licenses.

  3. That’s not the only option. There are other taxi services on Long Island such as Seaford Taxi and Airport Service, that dos just fine with or without uber and lyft, and ALL the drivers are locally licensed! You ought to check them out in contrast to the giants you know all about, this is a unique riding experience and it is not too expensive

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