Central New York, Government, Transportation

Uber Expected to Impact Syracuse Taxi Industry After Summer Arrival

Syracuse Airport Taxi is the only cab company that is allowed to pick up passengers at outside of Hancock International Airport through an exclusive contract with the city. (c) 2017 Brendan Tierney

Syracuse Taxi Companies Prepare for Uber's Summer Arrival

Planned construction on I-81 is still in gridlock, but Uber and Lyft have been given the green light in Upstate New York. Brendan Tierney reports taxi drivers are swerving to stay ahead of ride-sharing apps that are speeding into the region this summer.

By Brendan Tierney SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — The most frequent trip EL Taxi makes is from Syracuse University to Hancock International Airport, said Eldon Drummond, owner of EL Taxi in Syracuse.  This trip typically costs around $30, but Drummond said he expects Uber to offer it for $15 and drastically undercut his rates.

Drummond is an independent taxi driver and relies on customer calls to make a living.  He said taxi drivers fought the legalization of ride-sharing all the way until it passed as part of the state budget in April.

“As a whole, there is not enough business,” Drummond said.  “There’s not a lot of people calling to support the taxi business where we need an Uber, Lyft or whoever else.  God knows whoever is going to be coming after them.”

Despite the possibility of losing business, Drummond said he will not sign up to drive for Uber when it arrives in town this summer.  Instead, Drummond said he will lower his rates and increase his customer service to remain competitive.

Taxi companies have partnered with Uber in other cities, said Pam Villarreal, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas, Texas.

“In some cities, Uber and the cab companies have collaborated,” Villarreal said.  “Not only can you order Uber on your phone, but in the same app, you can get a normal taxi.  It tells you how much each is going to cost, and typically the Uber will be the cheaper one.”

AAA supported ride-share legalization and said its members are anticipating the new mode of transportation across Upstate New York.

A recent Siena poll found 75 percent of Upstate residents think allowing ride-sharing apps throughout New York will make the state better.

The demand has existed for years, an Uber spokesperson said.  More than 5,000 people in Syracuse opened the Uber app each month looking for a ride, according to an Uber release.  Uber expects to bring more than 700 jobs to Syracuse in its first year.

"The great thing about ride-sharing is that you can go right to your phone and there is an app. You can click the app and you can see who you can get and how quickly you can get them," Harris Kuhr, AAA Regional Sales Manager, said. (c) 2017 Brendan Tierney