The Northeast region is one of the most densely populated and congested areas in the country, yet Connecticut lawmakers appear determined to make commuting and traveling even harder on state residents. One of the most convenient modes of travel in the tri-state area is ridesharing through app-based transportation network companies (TNCs) like Lyft and Uber. Unfortunately, several Connecticut legislators have filed a bill that, if passed, would greatly limit access to TNC rides. Lawmakers should draw back from this wrongheaded idea before it makes life even more difficult for Connecticut residents.
The proposed legislation would require TNC drivers to possess a Connecticut motor vehicle operator’s license in order to be able to operate in the state. While this may seem like a minor burden, it could have a substantial effect on the ability of ridesharing companies to operate in Connecticut. Presently, ride-hail drivers in the state can operate based on demand, meaning that drivers from neighboring states can operate in Connecticut as well. Hard figures aren’t available, but requiring a Connecticut driver’s license would inevitably limit the supply of drivers.
The small geographical footprints of many Northeastern states—plus the fact that many residents in states like Connecticut commute to New York City for work—cause many TNC rides to cross state lines. A ride might originate in, say, Westchester County and end in Stamford, at which point the driver might then transport another customer from Stamford back to the Bronx—an arrangement which could become impossible under the proposed bill. To underscore the incongruousness of Connecticut’s proposed measure, it’s also worth noting that surrounding states such as Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have no such laws in place.
Ultimately, a free and clear ridesharing market is extremely convenient for Connecticut residents. Commuters in the tri-state region increasingly rely on TNCs to supplement beleaguered public transportation systems. In a region of the country where states are clustered together, and major civic centers are broken up by vast zones, TNCs have helped to bridge the gap. TNCs also help bring people to airports and bus stations, and even help shuttle elderly people to medical appointments.
What’s more, TNCs provide a public safety benefit by offering safe alternatives for drivers who may have overindulged. A 2016 study found that over a three year period after Uber’s entry into 150 cities and counties, the rate of DUI arrests and traffic fatalities was lowered. So too were arrest rates for assault and disorderly conduct. As the authors concluded: “[F]or each additional year of operation, Uber’s continued presence is associated with a 16.6 percent decline in vehicular fatalities.”
Rather than attempting to declare war on a helpful service that many Connecticut residents have come to rely on, lawmakers should be encouraging more residents to use ridesharing services. Otherwise, their constituents will be the real losers.
Image credit: Maridav