Nassau County must decide soon whether it wants the nation’s first suburb to join the rest of the world in allowing ride-hailing services, slated to begin outside New York City on June 29.
County officials should say yes.
Trying to take the county down the road to yesteryear are local taxi companies, who have been among County Executive Ed Mangano’s staunchest supporters and contributors, and are staying by his side. The owners of the taxi companies and other businesses they control have contributed more than $200,000 over the past decade to Mangano and county lawmakers. Politicians like to reward loyalty.
They also need to serve constituents. All constituents. Uber says 18,000 Nassau residents have applied to work as drivers. Uber and Lyft have been working in the county for months, making legal trips to and from New York City. Individual drivers operate under the radar. The services are popular. And saying yes to ride-hailing could usher in other companies — like local variations of HopSkipDrive, founded by a group of California moms to ferry children, and See Jane Go, designed as a women-driving-women option.
One safety complaint the taxi industry was hiding behind was addressed by state legislation just passed by the Senate and Assembly that bans any sex offender from driving for a ride-hailing service. The county’s Taxi & Limousine Commission, stacked with taxi industry reps, recommended that Nassau opt out of the state law and instead regulate ride-hailing locally. But the new state law doesn’t allow that.
Uber has had a spate of internal problems, but that doesn’t diminish the many benefits of app-driven ride-hailing, from its potential to reduce drunken driving to its ability to offer alternatives in a region that lacks sufficient public transportation. Those are far more important than paying back a handful of campaign donors. — The editorial board