NY Senate votes to accelerate start of upstate Uber, Lyft

Uber and Lyft may be coming to upstate New York in time for the Fourth of July.

The New York Senate voted 60-0 Wednesday to allow the two ride-hailing apps to begin service in cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany on June 29, 10 days earlier than they can start under an existing law passed earlier this year.

"This is one of the busiest tourism weekends of the year and both residents and visitors to New York state will greatly benefit," said Sen. James Seward, an Otsego County Republican.

Lawmakers voted earlier this year to allow Uber and Lyft to expand into upstate New York after years of being limited to the New York City area — though the law also required a 90-day wait to give the companies, and their new host communities, time to prepare.

Uber and Lyft had hoped to begin service before the lucrative and busy July Fourth weekend, but the required 90-day delay pushed the date to July 9 when lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo failed to reach a deal on a state budget on time.

Supporters of the accelerated timeframe say permitting Uber and Lyft to start before Independence Day weekend likely will reduce drunken driving during the busy holiday.

In a statement, Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang thanked the state Senate "for working to make our streets safer by ensuring that New Yorkers have a reliable transportation option when celebrating over July 4th weekend."

"We have been waiting years to bring ridesharing to New York State and are happy to wait an extra week," she added. "However, we are prepared to launch as early as June 29th.

The measure now moves to the Assembly, which could vote as soon as next week.