First, a disclaimer: This is a blog, not a newspaper. We do not work for Uber. We do not stand to benefit financially from Uber’s arrival in Upstate, Central, or Western New York. We do, however, live work and play in the city of Buffalo which sometimes requires that we hail a ride, instead of walking or driving ourselves. With that said, given the current status of taxi rides in Buffalo, of course we stand to benefit from Uber’s arrival.

It’s time. The New York State Assembly and Senate are back in session and ready to debate A.6090 (and then S.4280). The measures would alter the state’s insurance laws in order to let Uber and Lyft operate legally in New York State. Currently, New York City allows the ride-sharing services to operate under an exemption. Good for them. In the meantime, it’s winter in Buffalo and we’re left out in the cold. Our efforts and the issue earned coverage in the New York Times in October. We tried our best to be politically correct when we put together our small online petition in August that is still actively obtaining signatures today. We set it up so that every signature emails NYS Assembly members all over the state. You can see their names and emails on the petition if you’d like to email them directly yourself. Pass A.6090.

Today, we’re not going to be politically correct, we’re going to tell it like it is. We know you understand the difference between taxis and Uber or Lyft and that you’re frustrated. We’re just not sure that our NYS representatives know. So we’re trying to fire you up to push you to email your representatives in Albany to have some common sense, bring Upstate NY up to speed with the rest of the country, and vote in the best interest of their constituents, not the taxi lobby. Tell them to pass these measures now, not table them again.

Current Buffalo Cab Experience:

Us: Is this guy going to stop? …No. (Repeat 10x)
Taxi: My meter isn’t working. That 5 block, 3 min ride will be uhhh $13?
Us: I have a $20
Taxi: I have no change.
Taxi: My credit card machine isn’t working.
Taxi: I’m not taking you out there.
Taxi: We won’t pick you up from there.
One guy’s credit card reader was smashed. Just SMASHED to pieces! Did one of his riders have a hammer?! Or did the driver want to make all his fares in cash?
Blown stop signs, ran red lights, narrow misses on accidents, sticky seats, taking the wrong route to see if you notice, flooring it on snowy streets, and who’s your weird friend in the front?

Uber’s Capabilities:

1 – Rank your driver. Instead of tipping, you give your driver a score. Think about it. You need a ride and there are 4 drivers nearby. 3.8/5, 4.2/5, 4.5/5, 4.9/5. Which one are you going to pick? It’s so genius. Every driver who wants to make money is incentivized to give you the safest, cleanest, nicest experience in order to keep winning business.
2 – Set cost. Set route. No cash. Drivers cannot make up their own fares or shut their meters off or claim their machines are broken. They can’t take any route they want because both of your phones have the shortest route highlighted and the price is already negotiated by Uber before your ride begins.
3 – Split fare. Ride with three friends across the city? Split your fare and everyone can push to pay on their phone.
4 – Cheaper. Yes there are surge hours, but the majority of your time spent riding will be cheaper than taxi fares.
5 – Available. Not only will you be picked up faster (remember last winter when there was a two hour wait for a cab when you called from home?) but you will be picked up anywhere. Unlike Buffalo’s taxi drivers, Uber does not discriminate based on your neighborhood or route length.

Here’s the deal. We’ve been called out for supporting the behemoth that is Uber, and pushing down small businesses such as Liberty Cab in this effort of ours. After all, it’s in our mission to support small businesses, but the other part of our mission is to help advance Buffalo. When visitors are greeted with a lack of modern technology in our city, after using it in other cities around the country, what kind of impression does that give them? When our citizens are being ripped off by meter, route, and payment gimmicks, hoping for the best when they enter a random cab, does that advance Buffalo? When people who live in less desirable neighborhoods cannot get a ride at night from taxis, does that advance Buffalo? When the taxi experience is so poor that people are more inclined to drive drunk, does that advance Buffalo?

There is merit to the argument that Uber is less regulated than taxis. So, in order to create a more even playing field, we would concede that if you want to be an Uber driver, then maybe you should have to be fingerprinted, and maybe you should have to take a course and get a livery license. Regarding different insurance requirements, Uber exceeds the insurance legally required in New York State. In NYC, we feel for those who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a medallion to compete with those Uber drivers who paid nothing to start working. In Buffalo, we are less sympathetic after the experiences we’ve had. With greater regulations on Uber in effect, we believe the taxi lobby would still find some way to claim it’s unfair because they simply refuse to reign in their own drivers and to evolve. If there was an app (Liberty’s current app is garbage and its drivers have admitted to us that they don’t use it) on the same level as Uber’s, with ease of payment, a rating system, and an ability to put a friend into a cab and monitor their ride home – identifying the vehicle and driver, then the taxis in town would have nothing to worry about.

Come on. We’re the largest city in the United States without Uber. The only NFL city without Uber. So many states, counties, and cities have figured out how to make this work, and it’s about time we as consumers are given the same access and benefits as the rest of the country. Please sign, share, or write to your representative now. Pass A.6090.