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Welcome Uber to the suburbs

Banning a new technology to protect an outmoded one is rarely a smart idea.

An exterior view of the Uber headquarters in

An exterior view of the Uber headquarters in San Francisco on Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Credit: AP / Eric Risberg

Uber has hit a rough patch of road. And the ride-hailing company’s image has been suffering some pretty big dents as a result. The damages are all self-inflicted. But they are not justification to ban Uber and its peers, like Lyft, from operating on Long Island.

State legislation allows ride-hailing companies to function throughout New York beginning June 29, now that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed another measure moving up the start date. The law also gives counties the right to opt out, and Nassau in particular is being lobbied heavily by its taxi industry to do just that. That would be a big mistake, despite the fact that Uber:

  • Has admitted it shortchanged its New York City drivers by tens of millions of dollars, and saw the head of its state operation leave the company one week later.
  • Fired the top engineer in its driverless-car program, because he failed to produce court-ordered documents related to a lawsuit filed by a rival Google-owned company accusing Uber and the engineer of conspiring to steal trade secrets.
  • Is being investigated by federal officials for using software to evade regulators, part of its hyperaggressive management style.
  • Fired more than 20 employees as part of its own investigation into claims of sexual harassment within the company.

None of that bad behavior by Uber diminishes the fact that ride-hailing services using app platforms enjoy wide public support. They can reduce drunken driving, offer alternatives to those without cars in a region that lacks public transportation, and introduce much-needed competition to a stagnant industry. Where introduced elsewhere, ride-hailing has been affordable, prompt and safe.

Nassau should follow Suffolk, which has enthusiastically embraced ride-hailing. Suffolk officials noted not only that ride-hailing is part of modern life for young professionals, whose recruitment both counties consider essential to their future growth, but that the industry could generate as much as $120 million in new spending by its passengers.

Banning a new technology to protect an outmoded one is rarely a smart idea. Good businesses adapt. The others die. And customers win. Let Uber and company roll. 


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