Uber, Lyft service to begin on Long Island later this month

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Kristin Thorne has more on the prospect of ride sharing coming to Long Island.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation allowing ride hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to begin service on Long Island as well as cities upstate.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone joined Long Island business leaders, Uber and Lyft representatives, community advocates and local officials Tuesday to announce that Suffolk County will participate in the statewide ride-sharing program.

The new state law included a provision that provides the option for Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester counties to "opt-out" of the ride-sharing program if they so choose.

The legislation authorizes the ride-sharing program to begin on June 29, shortly before the July 4th holiday weekend.

Bellone touted the economic benefits of the program, saying Suffolk County projects that ride-sharing can generate up to $120 million in additional spending by passengers in the local economy, including $57 million in earnings and an estimated $34 million in time saved.

Lawmakers voted earlier this year to allow the ride-hailing apps to expand after years of being limited to the New York City area, though the law also required a 90-day wait to give the companies and host communities time to prepare.

Uber and Lyft had hoped to begin picking up passengers upstate before the lucrative and busy July Fourth weekend, but the required 90-day delay pushed the date to July 9 when lawmakers and the Democratic governor failed to reach a deal on a state budget on time.

Supporters of the accelerated timeframe say permitting the companies to begin picking up passengers before Independence Day weekend likely will give residents and tourists a new transportation alternative and reduce drunken driving during the holiday.

The legislation allows Uber and Lyft to begin service in cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany.

"Giving ride-sharing companies the green light 10 days early in time for the Fourth of July weekend, when tourism traffic and holiday celebrations will be at their peak, could be a true lifesaver," said state Sen. James Seward, an Otsego County Republican.

Uber will be ready for the expansion, according to company spokeswoman Alix Anfang. Buffalo is now one of the largest cities in the country without access to the ride-hailing services that have become commonplace elsewhere in the nation.

"We can't wait to bring Uber to upstate and the suburbs where residents have been demanding it," she said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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