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Ride-hailing's debut draws mixed reactions

National Public Radio

As ride-hailing made its long-awaited regional debut, local residents offered varying opinions on how the new mode of transportation will impact the riding public and the economy.

Buffalo resident Nathan Atkins of Buffalo has firsthand experience with services such as Uber and Lyft.

“I just moved here from Chicago last year and I used it a lot there so I’m excited that it’s coming here. I became super reliant on it while I was there. So it will be a good way to get around, and I want to go to Hertel and North Buffalo on the weekends, so that will be a good way to do that.”

Buffalo resident Amanda van Houten has also used ride-hailing apps during her travels, and she told WBFO she was impressed.

“Anytime I’ve used it has been out of town, usually for vacation,” she said. “I was recently in New York City, I used Uber multiple times a day and it was awesome.”

Meanwhile, some local leaders are hopeful that ride-hailing will be a boost to the local economy. Mayor Byron W. Brown said the new transportation option will allow for continued economic growth by encouraging people to go downtown for dinner, or a night out with the peace of mind that they can get a ride home safely. 

“Ridesharing provides a flexible way, an easy way for people to use their vehicles to earn extra income,” said Brown. “And we have seen with the example in New York City that people are earning significant incomes.”

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn believes ride-hailing apps will reduce the number of drunk driving incidentsn the county. In 2016, 592 felony DWI arrests were made, an increase from 576 in the prior year.

A study conducted by students from Temple University’s Fox School of Business found that the number of drunk driving deaths decreased by an average of 3.6% to 5.6% in California cities after ride-hailing was introduced in 2009.

Erin Goubiere, who lives on Buffalo’s West Side, said taxi companies might have to work hard to keep up with ridesharing services.

“I don’t think we have been served incredibly well by taxies in Buffalo thus far. So I hope that this helps them to up there game. I know they have been working on apps and some other innovations, so I hope that they will be able to serve Buffalo better.”

Despite the popularity of ride-hailing services, some residents prefer to use cab companies, including Liberty Yellow Cab. Local resident Scott Nowak, who has a physical disability, said he has impressed with local taxi service.

“I’ve never had them be late, and they help you in and out of the cab. If it’s not going to be too long, they wait for you. They’re good all the way around.”

WBFO's Mary Catalfamo contributed to this report.

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