New jobs and opportunity are now available for Alaskans and, as they say, there’s an app for that. We worked together to pass the Let’s Ride Alaska Act, a bill bringing ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft to the Last Frontier.
It’s easy to be frustrated about politics today. Economic recession and budget deficits fuel divisiveness and fill the headlines. But by working together, across the aisle, we brought ridesharing to our state and it is something Alaskans can all be proud of.
For years, we saw companies and local governments struggle to establish a framework for ridesharing in Alaska. The collaboration of a former school teacher from Anchorage and a small business owner from Fairbanks created a solution. Despite a difficult legislative session, we enjoyed a high five together as the governor signed our bipartisan jobs bill into law on June 15.
Rideshare improves community transportation through innovation. Increasing the number of hired drivers on the road makes it simple and cheap to get a ride. It’s now easier than ever to frequent Alaska’s small businesses, restaurants, and hotels. Leave the car at home for a night on the town, or use your off-time to earn extra money for your family. Lyft estimates its passengers add hundreds of millions of dollars to local economies across the country.
Alaskans need options for economic growth and bringing ridesharing to the Last Frontier creates jobs. Alaska is in the midst of its first recession since the 1980s, losing 9,000 jobs last year. Our state has the highest unemployment rate in the country.
Being a rideshare driver is a flexible form of self-employment. Drivers use their own car and phone, and work on their own time. It’s ideal for Alaskans looking for work, single parents, students or retirees. It is also one of the few jobs that military personnel can hold while on active duty.
Ridesharing makes Alaska’s economy more prosperous, and our cities safer and more accessible. During hearings on the Let’s Ride Alaska Act, we met an Alaskan for whom ridesharing makes all the difference in the world. Sam Moore testified passionately about how rideshare will allow him to get around Anchorage like never before. Being legally blind, cabs and public transportation have never been a good option. This new law provides hassle-free transportation, enhancing the mobility of our seniors or those with disabilities. For Alaskans like Sam, the bill is simply about freedom.
Rideshare enhances public safety; it means a safe ride home from a night out, and less impaired driving on our roads. The service is supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and is credited with decreasing DUIs by 10 percent since being introduced in Seattle.
A recent survey of Alaskans by the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, &Economic Development found that diversifying our economy is the best way we can make Alaska a better place to live. Passing this bill wasn’t just about smart phone apps or rides to the airport. It’s about making our economy more resilient and giving Alaskans a tool to help control their economic destiny.
Tackling the issues facing our state requires embracing innovation to improve the quality of life for Alaskans. Rideshare is a step in the right direction. Working together to meet these challenges head on will create even greater opportunities for Alaska.
• Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, has represented District 5 in the Alaska House of Representatives since 2015 and serves as chair of the House Energy Committee. Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, represents District K in the Alaska Senate, and serves as chair of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee. They sponsored House Bill 132 and Senate Bill 14 to allow ridesharing services to operate in Alaska.