Cornellians are not unanimously in favor of the ridesharing platforms, with some citing heightened prices.

Sam Hodgson / The New York Times

Cornellians are not unanimously in favor of the ridesharing platforms, with some citing heightened prices.

July 1, 2017

Uber, Lyft Begin Trial Period in Ithaca

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Uber and Lyft have finally hit the streets of Ithaca — though they may not be here to stay.

As of June 29, Ithaca residents have access to the ridesharing platforms following their authorization by state legislation, according to a press release for Tompkins County. The press release said that legislation — approved in early June — permits the apps to expand to upstate New York. Counties like Tompkins with a population of 100,000 or more have the option to opt-out from permitting the services at any time.

Transportation Committee Vice Chair Dave McKenna said the apps will have to go through a “de facto” trial period.

“At this point there’s enough people here that want it and I think we need to give it a trial period to see how it all shakes out, see how it affects local companies,” McKenna told The Sun. “I’m hoping it forces everyone to step up a bit but not put anyone out of business.”

Chair of the County Legislature Mike Lane said the services will be reviewed “continually” and discussed at monthly Transportation Committee meetings.

Ithaca City Clerk Julie Holcomb also stated the City of Ithaca will be monitoring for effects on local companies.

“We are going to be monitoring this very closely. We already have open lines of communication with companies like Ithaca Dispatch,” said Holcomb, adding that she will meet with Ithaca Dispatch principal owner John Kadar this week to discuss changing existing legislation.

The apps’ arrival comes a few days after the county legislature’s Transportation Committee met to discuss the entry of such services. Ten speakers, expressing views both positive and negative, voiced their opinions, according to a county news release.

Chamber of Commerce Vice President Peggy Coleman claimed the city is at a “competitive disadvantage” without such services, according to the report.

Local representatives of “two lodging establishments and a college admissions office” also noted poor service from the existing transportation companies. Airport Director Mike Hall complained of a “chronic ground transportation challenge at the Airport.”

Conversely, employees of Ithaca Dispatch, Tompkins’s largest taxi provider, noted the “safe, vetted, and locally committed service from existing operators, something they maintained cannot be assured from Uber or Lyft,” according to the report.

Kadar asked the Transportation Committee to opt-out of the legislation to provide “breathing space” for the local companies. He also claimed Uber and Lyft deploy a “predatory pricing blitz” to undercut local providers, according to the report.

The Ithaca Journal reported back in May that the governor’s office says the state budget will establish “a statewide task force to study and deliver recommendations on accessibility needs to protect and provide transportation to vulnerable populations” and that mandatory background checks would be established for all drivers.

“We’ll see how Cornell, Ithaca College, the hotels, and others feel about it for when we decide we want to go back and reevaluate,” McKenna said, expressing hope that the services will improve transportation times and that the committee will no opt-out, but maintained the results remain to be seen.

“Ithaca is a small town, it’s not New York City,” he added. “We’re not sure how it’s going to go here.”

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  • Robert H.

    Putting the local overpriced, dirty, and unpredictability slow cab companies out of business would be the best thing that could happen for residents and students. Let creative destruction work its magic.

  • Sam

    As an alum-this needed to be done years ago!!!!! For the safety of all students who don’t have cars and still want to see and experience things in Ithaca outside of Cornell-this is a must!!!!!! I used to use Taxiis and

    • Sam

      it was absolutely rediculous. They would not show up, always be “overbooked”. I hope these apps stay for the long term.

  • Bill

    I agree with the comments above. The local cab companies are absolutely atrocious and need to be put out of business. I have lived in about a dozen cities of various sizes, and I have never come across more incompetent cab companies than in Ithaca. I have been waiting for Uber and/or Lyft to come to the area since I have lived here. We do not own a car and have no intention of getting one, and Uber would be a huge convenience boost for us.

  • Ed

    I don’t own a car and find the taxi service here very poor , very expensive and not trustworthy. One time I needed a taxi in the early morning and they told to wait 2 hours for a cab. Also after paying a high price for a taxi they want a tip, what a joke. The taxi services need competition to clean up their act. I also would guess there are NY state laws that have contributed to this taxi issue too. Having uber and lyft is critical for me.

  • John B

    Since when is it the town of Ithaca or state of NY’s authority to prevent competition? I stayed in Saratoga last summer and it was a farce that we would held hostage to slow over priced taxis or who were nowhere to be found. Does that sound right to you?

  • anonymous

    ““We are going to be monitoring this very closely. We already have open lines of communication with companies like Ithaca Dispatch,” said Holcomb, adding that she will meet with Ithaca Dispatch principal owner John Kadar this week to discuss changing existing legislation.”

    I have rarely read something so akin to crony capitalism. In any case, with the introduction of Uber/Lyft the taxi companies will force the legislature change the prices for rides. Currently the taxi companies enforce their cartel by having the City of Ithaca legally set incredibly high prices for rides. With Uber/Lyft they will get no customers at those prices. (If the prices weren’t set by the legislature there may be some semblance of competition between the companies). In any case the government has absolutely no business in any of this and serves only to help the taxi companies to the detriment of Ithacans. I hope they go out of business but I will leave that up to the market.

  • June

    It is ridiculous for city to discourage competition. If a company cannot keep its customer base due to high price and poor customer service, they should be out of the business. I am a parent with a son at Cornell, and I certainly expect Uber/Lyft to stay. My son will start a out of campus research project this coming academic year, and I hope he can use Uber/Lyft rather than purchasing a car or using the expensive, poor local cab service.

  • Michael

    As an incoming law student, Uber/lift would be a reasonable alternative to taxis for me. There is no reason why Uber/lift should not run in a college town.

  • moses

    well of course the taxi companies dont want competition. much like the dinosaurs didnt want to go extinct either! I say the sooner the better

  • Al

    Especially with last year’s spikes in crime– the car break-in, the literal white van trying to lure students, the prowler going around groping women at night– it would be nice to have a slightly reliable way of getting home when it’s late. I vote yes to Uber and Lyft.

  • Sara

    The taxi companies in this town are way below average. They are impatient and will leave a passenger if they don’t turn up immediately….meanwhile the taxis themselves are almost always late. They need the competition to improve their service….or just go out of business. They are obviously going to complain about this because they do want to loose their monopoly on the town.

  • Ose

    Ithaca Dispatch has 4 company names it operates under, so that when you google Ithaca taxi’s the top searches are all the same company! So they are running a monopoly system and using that to hold the customers hostage. The prices change at will with no regulation whatsoever. I once had a driver charge me an extra $25 on a $6 ride because he put one of my suitcases in the front seat when it could have easily fit in the back but he knew I was late for my bus so I didn’t have time to sit and argue with him but I was furious! When you call them they lie and give you a random wait time which is never correct then when you call to ask where they are they say they came by and “didn’t see you”. They randomly pick up other people and do a ride share when you book them without asking you first, so if you are in a rush there is nothing you can do about it. I have been a student here for 2 years and have been at their mercy as I don;t have a car. They are also so so rude on the phone , I could go on and on. All in all I am happy to have some alternatives , lyft and uber are companies I am familiar with and I hope to never use Ithaca Dispatch ever again. If your interested their other company names are (University Taxi, Yellow Taxi, Cayuga Taxi)

  • Jim Hoose

    So I am an Uber driver, and I just want to comment that almost all of my riders have commented how glad they are that Uber has come to Ithaca. They have made comments about the cab companies in Ithaca, and how they are unhappy with the service. I don’t know, nor do I think I am providing anything above and beyond, but I hope mt service has been to all the liking of those who have road with me. I feel that if Ithaca’s transportation companies want to retain their customer baise they need to rethink their fairs, and how they treat their riders.