ALBUQUERQUE – New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez arrived Wednesday in her first Uber ride and signed a bill allowing ride-booking companies Uber and Lyft to operate in the state.
The Republican governor said the measure ends the confusion over whether the companies are welcome in New Mexico.
“After one ride I can see why Uber is so amazing,” Martinez said. “It makes the state accessible.”
Martinez said the companies will help reduce drunken driving in the state and allow tourists to roam.
Uber and Lyft use smartphone apps to connect their drivers with people seeking rides.
The legal status of the companies in the state had been in limbo since they began offering service in 2014. The companies had argued that the state’s Motor Carrier Act did not apply to them because they do not operate as commercial taxi businesses.
The dispute forced Lyft to pull out of New Mexico after state regulators couldn’t come up with a solution. Martinez said she hoped Lyft would give New Mexico another look after she signed the new legislation into law.
In a statement, Lyft praised the passage of the bill, but it did not say if it would return to New Mexico.
The new regulations include background checks for drivers against criminal and sexual-offender databases.
Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, said it was a two-year fight to get the legislation through the GOP-controlled House and the Democrat-led Senate.
Traditional taxi companies had fought bills to allow Uber and Lyft to operate in New Mexico over safety concerns.
Uber spokeswoman Taylor Patterson said the company was pleased to have another state with a regulatory framework.
She said Uber already is active in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos and Las Cruces. In Las Cruces, the district attorney’s office has helped Uber promote its services as a safe alternative to drinking and driving.
“Even though New Mexico is a newer market for Uber, it certainly is no less important than any other market we’re in, in terms of our focus to expand,” she said.