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As ride-hailing takes off upstate, Syracuse experiences some bumps in the road

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News File Photo
An Uber official and the head of the Syracuse Hospitality and Tourism Association take one of the first Uber rides in central New York.

There have been some bumps in the road since ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft started operating in upstate New York more than a month ago. One concern has been traffic congestion in a small, popular area of downtown Syracuse.

Weekend nights in Armory Square can become packed with young people going to bars and restaurants closely located in a few blocks. Add to that the influx of Uber and Lyft drivers, navigating one-way streets with pedestrians crossing, sometimes intoxicated, and the area is starting to get overcrowded. Syracuse Common Councilor Steven Thompson said police are working with ride-hailing drivers and the mayor’s administration to come up with a solution.

“You have patrons leaving establishments and they want to take ride-sharing, so they wander around the street looking for them," Thompson said. "The Ubers and Lyfts don’t have a specific, designated place to park because that isn’t what they were brought on to be. Taxis were brought on to sit and wait.”

A part of Walton Street in Armory Square closes to traffic on weekend nights so taxis can idle there and pick up customers.

"Is that something we can do with Uber, or is there some other alternative?" Thompson questioned.

Uber said it has been in contact with the Syracuse mayor’s office to make sure ride-sharing downtown is safe. But concerns are also being raised with college students returning soon. Plus, there is always more traffic around the Carrier Dome during Syracuse University football and basketball games and concerts. SU also said they're proactively working with Uber and Lyft to come up with a plan.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.