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Mayor Myrick advocates for the launch of pilot e-scooter program: Who benefits? Who gets hurt?

The motivated mayor of Ithaca has recently spoken out in favor of implementing a new e-scooter program throughout the city, as well as the rest of New York.

Ithaca Times reports that last week, the mayor took the time to write out a through letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) as well as other Albany lawmakers (namely Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins). Myrick cites his reasoning as being that "Millions of New Yorkers in cities and big towns are not within reasonable walking distance of public transportation. Many of these communities tend to be lower-income and more diverse than those with easy access to mass transit (from Myrick's letter to the State Legislature)."

In addition to advocating for the launch of the program, he calls for the deregulation of such a market by local officials, insisting that they "let micro-mobility programs enter New York markets in earnest by finally allowing for municipalities to set rules for the programs." (Ithaca Times).

This stance stems from the fact that Lime, a company offering sustainable alternative transportation methods (mainly bike and scooter), along with other companies have an invested interest in this bill passing ----literally! These companies have reportedly invested up to tens of thousands of dollars to get the bill passed. While there is a sizeable market for renewable, alternative transport (which includes Uber's JUMP - Electric bikes), Lime has exclusive deals to operate in some cities in New York and hopes to expand its region of influence if the bill to launch the program passes.

There are many elements to this conversation, such as the issue of availability of transportation in the area, how such a bill could change life as we know it in Ithaca and more. These are all conversations that WVBR News fully intends to engage in within the next few weeks. But for now, we think it it important to start the conversation off from an angle that is not new to long-time residents nor college students in the area, but is often dismissed or taken for granted: how could this bill, if passed, potentially exacerbate the issue of competition for Uber and Lyft, and even limit opportunity for the drivers of their car service to find work and receive even a slight profit margin?

Over the past few months, Uber and Lyft have come under fire for allegedly severely underpaying workers. In the past two months alone, local Uber and Lyft drivers have held at least one organized strike to rectify the small percentages they make out of driving others, while the company keeps most of the money. The most recent strike occurred in early May, coincidently on the same day as Cornell's notorious Slope Day celebration. One driver who drives for both Uber and Lyft but was on shift for Uber at the time, showed one WVBR reporter a statement where she earned $3 from a $15 ride. In frustration she commented "Why is it that Uber makes most of the money and not provide benefits? They should, of course, take a cut but the drivers should be making most of the money from each ride."

For drivers that rely on even this margin, there is a concern to be raised about how these new set of options will affect them. Uber itself participates in this market with e-bikes and e-scooters available in New York City with the potential to expand to non Lime-exclusive cities. As a result, they are a stakeholder that stands to either benefit or be relatively unaffected by the bill expanding the market for e-bikes and e-scooters. Customers arguably gain (depending on whether Lime will hold a monopoly in Ithaca should the bill pass) because they will, again assuming Lime does not get a monopoly on the market, reap the benefits of competition and innovation as these companies strive to be on top. But Uber drivers and Lyft driver, from what it looks like at the moment, stand to take a loss form both the low return in revenue from their work and the increased competition in the general transportation market.

I reached out to Mayor Myrick for a comment or statement about his stance and the potential ramifications of competition. He was not able to respond at the time of the article's original publishing, but the article will be updated should we receive a statement from his office soon. Regardless, I pose a question to you: the residents of Ithaca, the Greater Tompkins County, Tioga County, Cortland County, Cayuga County, Seneca County, Schuyler County, Chemung County, and most importantly, the whole of New York State.

  1. Do your views on this proposed bill align with those of the mayor?

  2. In your opinion, what are the benefits and costs of passing a state-wide e-scooter bill? Do you think the benefits will outweigh the costs here?

  3. Are you someone that relies on Uber, Lyft, or other public/private taxi services, and do you see the potential of competition as a bad thing for local drivers?

  4. If you are someone who is against this bill, what other solution(s) do you propose for creating more frequent accessible transportations? Furthermore, what makes your solution more ideal for your community than the proposed bill?

We at WVBR News encourage you to think about these questions and share your answers with us. Our links are:

Talk of the Town returns on Saturday, June 29th at 5pm! Only on WVBR - Ithaca's Alternative.

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