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Liberty Cab calls off planned New Year's boycott in Buffalo

Liberty Yellow Cab is calling off its plans to boycott the City of Buffalo on New Year's Eve.

Company owner Bill Yuhnke said that, because of intervention by State Sen. Chris Jacobs, he will allow his cab drivers to serve passengers in the City "in the interest of public safety."

The cab company had threatened to boycott the city on the busiest night of the year to signal Liberty's displeasure with what it considers to be unfair competition between the taxi industry and ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft.

"I want to thank Senator Jacobs for stepping forward in this matter, and his call to continue the dialogue with the city to address our concerns about the unfair competitive environment that is threatening the future of the taxi industry," Yuhnke said in a press release.

He added that the company has been a fixture in the city for decades and, "true to our history, we want what's best for the community so I have decided to call off the planned boycott of the city on New Year's Eve."

The decision does not change the cab company's position on ride sharing, Yuhnke said, and they will continue to push city leaders to address what they say is an "unfair environment."

A meeting on the issue is tentatively scheduled with Mayor Byron Brown on Jan. 16.

Liberty is the area's largest cab company, with about 450 cabs on the street.

Its boycott plan arose after Liberty and Airport Taxi petitioned the Council to either ease regulations on taxis, require companies like Uber and Lyft to abide by the same rules as cabs, or some combination of both. Taxi companies are required to pay for a special taxi license, undergo a background check and police vehicle inspection, and can charge passengers no more than $3 per mile.

Taxis, hit hard by Uber and Lyft, press city to change rules

Ride-hailing services are not bound by those regulations.

Airport Taxi said it will allow its individual drivers to decide whether they want to do business in Buffalo on New Year's Eve.

Uber has stepped in as a sponsor of the 30th anniversary of Downtown's New Year's Eve Buffalo Ball Drop and Fireworks after Liberty, which sponsored the event for many years, dropped out. Uber is also offering $15 off a ride to or from the Ball Drop with promo code BUFFALONYE15OFF for first-time passengers.

Even though the boycott has been called off, cab companies say if something isn't done to level the playing field they may go out of business.

Liberty has kept its sales steady by outsourcing call center jobs to the Philippines and making software advances. But Airport Taxi has seen a 50 percent decrease in sales, it said.

Liberty Yellow Cab automates calls to help compete with Uber

Tony Farina, spokesman for Liberty, specifically mentioned problems with Uber's Surge Pricing practice, which increases rates during times of peak demand to entice more of its drivers onto the road.

Uber declined to get into specifics about New Year's Eve pricing in Buffalo, but said its passengers are shown the price and asked to confirm the higher fare before completing their ride request so there are no surprises. It also suggested traveling outside the hours of midnight to 3 a.m. Monday morning when prices are expected to be the highest.

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