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Taxi operators say ride sharing must have city rules

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown met for more than an hour with local taxi cab company leaders and attorneys Tuesday afternoon.  WBFO’s senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the cab operators are demanding an equal playing field with ride sharing companies operating in the city of Buffalo. 

Taxi cab company leaders from Airport, Liberty Yellow and Broadway Taxi met with Mayor Brown at City Hall. They say the ride sharing competition is hurting their long time business.

Under state law, ride sharing is allowed to operate in Buffalo, however, these car service providers are not regulated by the city like cab companies, so these taxi operators are now demanding the Mayor come up with city rules to level the playing feel.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Broadway Taxi's Brian Drake.

Broadway Taxi's Brian Drake says if there are no regulations citizens could be at risk.

“How do we know who’s driving Uber and Lyft – you don’t? If you call a Broadway cab and there’s an issue, you reach out to me and I’ll touch that driver,” Drake explained.

"The taxi industry is being crippled. They're losing business, they're losing employees.  It's just not fair to them or the citizens of Buffalo,” stated Tony Farina, Liberty Yellow cab spokesman.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Tony Farina, Liberty Yellow cab spokesman.

Farina wants city regulations to create equal treatment. 

“And to work with the council and the law department and come up with some ideas, put them together in a proposal and hopefully the council will get behind it and we can get something done,” Farina remarked.

Liberty cab owner Bill Yuhnke said his business is taking a hit because of ride sharing. He’s already been forced to make job cuts.

“To conserve money and stay in business we outsourced our call center to the Philippines on cost savings. We didn’t make it public because it was a very sad day for me. These people were friends of mine and now they are out of work and so it did cost people jobs and I heard that across the table today. The Mayor was really unaware of that,” Yuhnke said.  

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Liberty cab owner Bill Yuhnke.

The Mayor did not talk to reporters following the meeting, but taxi leaders say the told them his hands are tied because of the state law. 

WBFO News spoke with North District Common Council Member Joe Golombek.  He said the city might have to “deregulate” taxis to make it fair.

“And there is a part of me that says perhaps we should simply deregulate, but once again, for somebody that understands history, when you deregulate 20-years later they decide it’s not a good idea and they decide to regulate,” Golobmek remarked.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Attorney Harold Boreanaz represents the taxi companies.

Attorney Harold Boreanaz represents the taxi companies.

“The taxi companies have one hand, or two hands tied behind their back. The citizens of the city of Buffalo – this is coming – if they go down – the taxi companies go down – the consumers will be hurt,” Boreanaz stated. 

The Mayor told the taxi companies he is open to future meetings. Frank Bona, of Airport Taxi Service, emerged from the meeting telling WBFO he was satisfied with the discussion. "Yes, very satisfied," responded Bona.

But Bona said it is important to maintain the long-time taxi cab businesses.  

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Frank Bona of Airport Taxi Service.

"We want to persevere and protect its longevity of the taxi industry for Western New York. We really feel like it is under siege right now and there is the possibility it will be extinct at one point," Bona declared.

In the meantime, the Mayor did agree to change a sign at Washington and Scott streets that currently only allows ride sharing services to wait for customers. The Mayor said he will have the sign change to include taxis.

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