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When does 'L' license plate = parking ticket? In the City of Tonawanda

Liberty CCab

Let's say you have two cars parking illegally on City of Tonawanda streets. One has the "L" plate of a cab or livery vehicle. The other has no special marking, but it's used by the owner for Uber or Lyft. The cab will get a ticket and the ride-sharing vehicle won't.

Local taxi magnate Bill Yuhnke said the City of Tonawanda apparently is the only local government that specifies cabs can't park on the street.

He said it's unfair, because there are drivers who live in the city and fewer and fewer cabs are owned by companies like his Liberty and Yellow Cabs, while more and more are owned by individual drivers. That's just like those relatively unmarked Uber and Lyft cars.

Yuhnke said the city has to move its parking ordinances into this century.             

Credit City of Tonawanda Police Department

"It's time that they catch up with the times. The times have changed," he said. "Liveries and taxis are privately owned. They're not owned by companies any more. They're owned by individuals. They have homes that they live in Tonawanda and the same thing with Ubers and Lyfts. Just because they don't have a special state taxi plate on the vehicle, they're parking on a street."

Yuhnke is complaining because one of his drivers was ticketed for having a livery plate. Police Capt. Fredric Foels says it's hard to tell if a vehicle is Uber or Lyft.

"Most of those vehicles have just regular passenger plates on them, so there would be no way for an officer to know whether that was a Lyft or Uber vehicle," Foels said.

In contrast, cabs have those "L" plates, which make them readily visible. Foels said city ordinances list cabs as one of the types of vehicles that are supposed to be ticketed, like tractor trailers or just trailers.

"About five different vehicles aren't allowed to park on the street at any time," he said. "Some of them are trailers, semi-trailers, recreational vehicles, the statute says campers, boats, commercial business vehicles and, according to the statute, livery vehicles, also."

He said Tonawanda city officers hand-wrote 2,600 tickets last year, although he doesn't know of any other ticket issued to a livery plate.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.