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Just play by the same rules, says local taxi company of ride-hailing

WBFO's Mike Desmond

Western New York's largest taxi operator is pushing back against the push in Albany for ride-hailing, saying the public could pay the price.

Liberty Communications owner Bill Yuhnke says he has 650 drivers and 416 cabs. He says his company was part of a national app for taxi service before Uber and other ride-hailing services started and lets customers pay with credit cards. He also says his drivers receive police background checks, while the City of Buffalo inspects his vehicles.

Yunke says the public is being given false information about the differences between established taxi services and ride-hailing offerings - and so is Albany, where Upstate legalization is in the works. Yuhnke says riders would be safer if everyone had the same rules.
"I guess I'm a little tired of hearing all the whining and crying that we need ride-sharing here," he says. "There's a lot of great companies here in Western New York that are doing a job and I think the whole bottom line is this: just play by the rules. I would welcome them here today, but we've got to look at this as a smart intelligent way. No one gave me $100,000 for my legislator to set up my business."

Former Erie County Executive and now lobbyist Joel Giambra says Uber has skeletons on the road and in its offices, like the shooting of six riders.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond
Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra is lobbying for ride-hailing services to play by the same rules as taxi services.

"The one-year remembrance, if you will, of the six people who were shot in Kalamazoo, MI by an Uber driver," Giambra says. "We're also on the heels of a national story that developed yesterday where a woman who was an employee of Uber in the  executive offices has made a very serious allegation of sexual harassment that appears to have been unaddressed."

Yuhnke says Uber could have come into this market and bought some of the available taxi licenses in Buffalo or he could switch to a ride-hailing business model and save thousands of dollars per car in insurance costs, as well as the costs of driver background checks and city inspections.

WBFO reached out to Uber about the claims from Giambra and Yuhnke and did not receive a response.