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UB students discuss ride-hailing services in Buffalo

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Jessie Miller enjoys watching plays at Shea’s Performing Arts Center downtown, but the cost of a taxi can be more expensive than tickets for a show.

In the past, Miller and her friends had to take a bus from North to South Campus, then take the train from South Campus to downtown.

Transportation options may be opening up for UB students since ride-hailing services are expected in upstate New York as soon as this summer, according to The Buffalo News. The announcement comes after a long-fought battle in Albany between ridesharing proponents like Governor Andrew Cuomo and the services’ opponents, such as Senate Democrats and local transportation services.

In the past, many UB students have found transportation options lacking, saying taxis are expensive and not always reliable. The last train leaves downtown Buffalo around midnight on the weekends.

John Chorwat, a senior electrical engineering major, has had many bad experiences with cabs downtown and is excited to use Uber in the future.

“It costs so much to get from North [Campus] to downtown, like $50 or something ridiculous,” Chorwat said. “We've been thrown out of cabs before for being rowdy and a lot of [cab-drivers] are just rude in general.”

The battle in Albany looked to expand ride-hailing services beyond New York City, where they have been legal for years. New York will join 38 other states to fully legalize ride-hailing. Buffalo is currently the largest city in the country without ride-hailing services.

Uber and Lyft are the leading ride-hailing services. They work to locate the closest driver to the rider’s location and give customers affordable and fast transportation.

UberX, the least expensive of Uber’s services, currently charges $1.75 per mile in New York City, putting a ride from North Campus to Canalside at about $27. The same trip through Liberty Cab, a local taxi company, costs $55.

International and out-of-state students need transportation to the airport and a cab can cost $26 with either Buffalo Transportation service or Liberty Cab. By comparison, this trip with UberX would cost $16.

Chorwat has used Uber in Manhattan and is eager to see them make their way through Western NY. He enjoys Uber because their vehicles are “actually nice and clean.”

Allisa Roberts, a freshman pharmacy major, doesn’t go downtown often, but said she would if ride-hailing services become available.

“When people are drunk and have to go home, cabs are expensive,” Roberts said. “Uber seems like a reliable way to get cheaper transportation.”

Miller lives on Long Island and often flies home for shorter breaks.

“I would definitely take advantage of it even if I'm just going to the airport or I just need a ride back to campus,” Miller said.

Uber would also be an opportunity for students to earn extra cash.

In order to be an Uber driver in Buffalo, one must be 21 or older, have a four-door car that is a 2011 or newer, in-state auto insurance with the driver’s name on the policy, an in-state driver license, a social security number, in-state plates and must pass a background check and driving record check. Since Buffalo would be a new location, there are other requirements that may be put into effect.

Officials were also concerned with the safety of the service and the background checks that are conducted for drivers.

Karen Ullman, a senior media studies major, would use Uber if it were in Buffalo. She said she’s not worried about the drivers and would prefer the ride-hailing service to a cab.

“Cabs are way too expensive and can be a pain to call for later in the night,” Ullman said. “I used to live out by New York City and Uber was such a lifesaver, as you could see the general rate before you send for it whereas with a cab, you never really know. I’ve had friends who’ve been in poor situations with Uber drivers and were reimbursed because the customer service is so accommodating.”

Ian Carson, a senior economics major, thinks that cabs can be unreliable and expensive, especially since Liberty Cab has such a large place in the market.

“I’ve used Uber before and they’re general much friendlier than cab drivers, probably because a lot of them do it for extra cash or they’re choosing their own hours,” Carson said. “So it’s not sketchy at all to me.”

Lindsay Gilder is the assistant features editor and can be reached at lindsay.gilder@ubspectrum.com


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