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Ride-sharing services like Uber get support from county

Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are set to legally hit local roads starting June 29.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced last week that the county will participate in statewide regulations outlined in the state budget adopted April. The county could have opted out of permitting such services, but chose not to exercise that right.

“Ride-sharing in Suffolk County is a game-changer that will provide the incentives needed to attract talent and young professionals to live and work in our region,” Mr. Bellone said in a statement. “This will generate millions in economic activity, create good-paying jobs and make sure we further protect the safety of our roadways.”

The regulations were initially on track to begin in July, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation last week to expedite the start by 10 days, just ahead of Fourth of July weekend. The only factor that could change the start date in Suffolk is a bill proposed by Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) that aims to close a loophole critics say would allow level 1 sex offenders to drive for ride-sharing services. That bill could be voted on Tuesday and would delay the start until the state addresses that issue.

Ride-sharing in the state was previously limited to trips originating in New York City.

“Extending ride-sharing across New York is a matter of fairness that brings new transportation options and – with it – new economic opportunity and innovation,” the governor said in a statement last week. “This framework provides for a fair, safe and comprehensive ride-sharing system that will benefit communities in every corner of this state.”

The state legislation allows companies like Uber to be regulated through the Department of Motor Vehicles and expands the service beyond New York City. Counties and cities with populations of at least 100,000 had the prerogative to opt out of allowing ride-sharing services, according to the law. Based on its population, Southold Town was not eligible to opt out.

Regulations require that ride-sharing apps in the state must show passengers the estimated fare and display a photo of the driver, along with a description of the vehicle and its license plate number, according to the DMV. In addition, drivers must pass a criminal background check, which includes a review of their driving record. Ride-sharing companies are required to enroll their drivers, who must be at least 19 years old, in a DMV system that tracks and reports traffic ticket convictions, license revocations and reinstatements and other events.

Local officials recently expressed support for ride-sharing on the North Fork, saying it would provide a responsible transportation option for visitors and locals and cut down on drinking and driving, as well as offering another way for people to get where they need to go in an area where public transportation and traditional cab service are limited.

Southold Town has added yet another transportation option to the mix with 511NY Rideshare, a ride-matching service in which other towns such as Huntington already participate. Through the partnership, users create a profile and can find people who travel similar routes for carpools or vanpools. The service can also match up bicyclists.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said he thinks the partnership, in addition to services such as Uber, has potential to help the town when it comes to moving visitors from west to east and alleviating traffic. Transportation alternatives that didn’t exist a few years ago should be promoted, he said.

“Anything that reduces cars on the road we have to look at and support,” Mr. Russell said.

Photo caption: Main Road in Southold on a busy June day. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

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