Cab Companies Gripes with Ride Hailing Regulation

"The field isn't level"

Mike Baggerman
December 07, 2017 - 3:00 am

Liberty Cab


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Taxi cab representatives met with the Buffalo Common Council on Tuesday to present information about an apparent unequal playing field in their competition against ride hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.

"We're fighting this battle with one hand behind our back," Bill Yuhnke, President of Liberty Cab, told WBEN. "One of the issues is surge pricing. It's really not surge pricing, it's gouging. We have to charge the same whether it's snowing out there today, high business movement, or New Year's."

Part-time Uber driver Jim Stelianou tells WBEN, surge pricing happens sporadically.  "There must be an algorithm in the App that can tell if there are lots of requests and few drivers.  It shows up as a red dot on the map and gets darker red as more requests come in". 

As an example of surge pricing, Stelianou said a Saturday night ride from Chippewa Street in Buffalo to Amherst may generally cost $20.  But it may be $40 ot $50 or more under surge pricing.

Yuhnke said he probably won't utilize any of his vehicles for non-customers in the City of Buffalo for New Year's Eve, where thousands are expected to descend on Downtown Buffalo.

"I have a lot of business outside of Buffalo," he said. "We're not going to position a lot of our vehicles in Downtown Buffalo during the ball drop this year."

Stelianou said if taxis want to stay out of downtown Buffalo on New Year's Eve, that's fine. 

Yuhnke also highlighted the ridesharing drop-off location on Scott Street by KeyBank Center. Fans often use this area to meet their Uber or Lyft driver.

"If there is a stand there it should be for everybody," he said. "It should be for taxis. If you want to give it to ridesharing, just petition the City of Buffalo and let them look at it. We were stunned that the council was unaware of who put the sign up. That was done in public. The councilmen all looked at each other saying 'who approved it?'. Nobody knew who approved it. If you put your car there and there's no standing between signs, chances are pretty good you're going to get a ticket."

City officials requested the Department of Permits and Inspections and the Department of Public Works to look into that situation.

He did give kudos to the common council for acknowledging that there needed to be more discussion about taxi cab's rules in competition with ridesharing.

LISTEN: Liberty Cab President Bill Yuhnke interview with Mike Baggerman

Liberty Cab - Bill Yuhnke RAW.mp3

Buffalo Common Councilman Joe Golombek agreed that the playing field favors ridesharing companies and said he "completely understands" where the taxi cab companies are coming from.

"I think the taxi industry has to do certain things that rideshare doesn't such as get permits in the City of Buffalo that they have to pay for," he said. "Being inspected. Having a background check for their riders. This is something ride sharers don't have to do from a city point of view, they don't have to go through the Buffalo Police's an added burden for the taxi companies."

Golombek said that deregulation of the taxi cab industry may have to take place.

LISTEN: North District Buffalo Common Councilman Joe Golombek with Mike Baggerman

Liberty Cab - Joe Golombek RAW.mp3

LISTEN: Part-Time Uber driver Jim Stelianou with Susan Rose & Dave Debo

Relating Some Uber Experiences - Jim Stelianou


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