Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Members of LBTOUNY gathered at Banchetti’s in
Amherst, NY, for the association’s most recent meeting.
Amherst, N.Y. — The Limousine, Bus, and Taxi Operators of Upstate New York (LBTOUNY) held its most recent meeting December 3.

Dave Bastian of Towne Livery, who’s also LBTOUNY’s legislative chairman, had been invited by association President Kevin Barwell of Giorgio’s Limousine Service to discuss much of the issues covered during the meeting. Those key issues included the association’s efforts to expand its membership base to more areas in New York state, the continued encroachment of TNCs, and what LBTOUNY is doing to repeal the state’s sales tax on black car and limousine services.

The sales tax has had an unwelcome effect on New York state operators since its introduction, and members have spent more than a year fighting it, only to find themselves back at the beginning.

“We’ve had two bills that went through the House, the Assembly, and the Senate,” Barwell said. “It did pass so the bill was repealed in the Senate but, unfortunately, the Assembly did not get it to that point, so we’re going to start again in the new year. The fight is continuing.” Barwell also said that association members have discussed their options for getting the sales tax repealed and “trying to get it into the budget.”

TNCs were a hotly discussed topic at the meeting, too. While they’re allowed to operate in New York City, they’re still not permitted upstate until they follow the same laws as regulated livery operators.

“The TNCs were in Buffalo and Rochester before they were ever in New York City, so we started on getting them removed from this area, or at least making sure they follow the same rules and regulations that other companies supplying transportation services in the state of New York have to follow,” Barwell said. “TNCs can operate in New York City if they follow the rules, but they’re not allowed in the upstate area. So that was great, but we know that they’re still trying to get into our area.”

Barwell also said that it’s come to the association’s attention that drivers who worked for Uber or Lyft before they were removed from the upstate area have found a loophole to continue operating.

“We’ve found out that some drivers who were working here before, especially in the Rochester area, have created somewhat of an underground network,” he said. “They’re providing transportation through some of the customers they had, only without Lyft or Uber taking their money. We have to deal with that issue now, too.”

The association is looking ahead to spring, as it’s planning its first Day on the Hill for May. Having represented LBTOUNY at other organization’s legislative days, Barwell feels that it’s time for operators in New York state to unify in Albany.

“We’re inviting not only our members but also all the other associations to be a part of this so that we can get through to the representatives about the issues we’re all fighting,” he said. “Hopefully, it’ll be a good event and something we can continue in the future for all operators in the state of New York. I think we, as an industry, need to have a little bit louder of a voice upstate.”

LBTOUNY’s schedule for 2015 has been finalized, and Barwell is pleased that its meetings will be throughout Upstate New York in the coming year.

“We really want operators to understand that this is their New York state association—not only upstate, but the whole state can be a part of it,” he said. “The more people we have, the louder our voice will be.”

The next LBTOUNY meeting will be February 18 in Rochester.

Visit lbtony.com for more information.

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