Area Business Leaders, Uber Discuss Ridesharing

Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and Patrick Lyden, Uber federal policy representative discuss the ridesharing app. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Representatives from local employers, non-profit organizations and the ridesharing app Uber gathered at Jamestown Community College to discuss a more business- and rural-friendly approach.

Uber is currently growing a new web-based application tailored for a business-to-business model, opposed to the popular peer-to-peer Uber X model. The new web-based feature would allow businesses to request rides for clients and employees 30 days in advance, or on the spot requests similar to how the more popular feature works.

Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, facilitated the open dialogue between local employers and Patrick Lyden, Uber federal policy representative. Lyden spent much of the meeting discussing Uber Central and emphasizing its expansion into more rural areas. Assemblyman Andy Goodell was in attendance along with a representative for state Sen. Cathy Young.

Reed described Uber as a “disruptor” benefiting off the nature of the country’s “shared economy.”

“Uber has an incredible history of positive disruption and has been the single biggest player in the transformation of the car service industry,” Reed said. “Getting to work reliably is a concern for many, and today’s discussion was incredibly beneficial as Uber looks toward retooling how people get to work and provide for their families.”

Uber has been facilitating ridesharing for the last eight years, but wasn’t introduced into New York state until 2017. As for Uber Central, Lyden admitted the program is still a work in progress.

“We’re growing as we’re talking about it,” he said to room full of Chautauqua County business leaders inside the Sarita Weeks room at JCC.

Present at the meeting were representatives from JCC, Chautauqua County Education Coalition, United Way, YWCA, Cummins Engine, Chautauqua Investment Board, Social Services, Hispanic Community Council of Chautauqua, County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency and the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce.

Many of the organizations in the room discussed the lack of Uber drivers in the area compared to the amount of drivers in Fredonia. Many of them also raised the concern of individuals not being able to provide their own transportation to their place of work. At the beginning of the discussion, Reed highlighted the need to address the growing concern of transportation as it relates to employment, healthcare, education and other individual needs.

“Transportation has been consistently cited by job seekers and businesses as a barrier to obtaining employment and employees as well as successfully maintaining employment and retaining employees,” said Katie Geise, Workforce Investment Board executive director. “Any additional economical transportation options and resources to assist in making such options accessible throughout Chautauqua County will have a positive impact on the area’s workforce.”

Lyden and Reed also discussed how the tax code needs to be restructured to reflect the changing economy that would mirror how businesses like Uber are employing individuals.

“We need to modernize the tax code to recognize that there is a portion of this workforce that wants to work in a flexible way,” Lyden said.

Reed used the term “back packing” as it relates to individuals maintaining their earned benefits who might work for multiple employers. He said current work with the tax code will attempt to reflect those individuals with jobs like that of Uber.

“We’re proud to be here with Tom to help bring awareness to the many positive benefits that come from innovative technologies like ridesharing,” Lyden said. “The conversation today was productive and we look forward to working together in the future.”

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