()

Uber said Wednesday it will start airing new ads during the NCAA tournament games in Buffalo this week calling attention to the fact that city visitors can’t hail drivers through ridesharing apps.

Uber said it was launching its “#UberMadness” campaign with ads on radio, television, websites and social media to promote passage in Albany of a bill legalizing ride-sharing throughout New York state.

Ride-sharing is legal in New York City. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature have been discussing its extension to the rest of New York, perhaps in the new state budget they will adopt over the next few weeks. Sources say, however, that local government control over ride-sharing drivers and background checks for drivers remain sticking points in the talks.

Uber’s New York regional general manager, Josh Mohrer, said the ads will remind readers and listeners that Buffalo is the largest city in the United States without ridesharing.

“The fact that visitors and residents can’t use Uber to get to the games is pure … madness,” Mohrer said in a statement spoofing the “March Madness” nickname the NCAA and the CBS network use to describe the annual men’s and women’s college basketball championships.

Seven men’s tournament games are planned in Buffalo beginning Wednesday night. Top-ranked Villanova is among the teams playing in Buffalo.

Uber and other ridesharing proponents similarly tried to use another sports-related event in Buffalo—the June 2016 National Hockey League draft—to call attention to the fact that visitors could not hail a ride though an app on their cell phones, as they could in every other NHL city.

Meanwhile, nine New York state mayors are sending a letter to Andrew Cuomo in support of legislation to pass ridesharing statewide:

“The municipalities that we represent differ in many ways, but each of our communities needs more transportation options,” the mayors said. “Ridesharing will benefit our local economies and provide 21st century solutions to many of the transportation-related challenges that we face.”

The mayors signing on the latest ride-sharing promotional letter were Byron Brown of Buffalo; Stephanie Minor of Syracuse; Lovely Warren of Rochester; Kathy Sheehan of Albany; Robert Palmieri of Utica; Jacqueline Izzo of Rome; Steven Noble of Kingston; Richard David of Binghamton and Svante Myrick of Ithaca.

New Yorkers for Ridesharing group is a coalition of civil, business and community groups brought together by the Internet Association. The association is a national group that lobbies for favorable government policies for new economy companies whose members include Airbnb, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, Uber and Yahoo.

The group recently opened an office in Albany to promote issues favored by the new economy giants, including ride-sharing legislation (NYLJ, Feb. 8) and to oppose Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to require internet marketplace operators to collect sales taxes on transactions some third-party retailers make to New York residents through their sites (NYLJ, March 10).