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Uber takes on taxis with discount rides

– The car-hailing service Uber is taking on New York City’s taxis, temporarily dropping some of its prices by 20 percent.

The company says the price of its UberX lower-end service is now cheaper than the rate charged by the city’s famous yellow cabs.

For instance, a ride from Grand Central Terminal to the financial district would now cost roughly $22, down from $28 before the sale.

Uber said a similar ride in a yellow taxi costs $24.

The sale in the nation’s largest city – one heavily dependent on taxis – comes following similar temporarily reductions in the past month in Atlanta, Boston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco.

Uber says that if the reduced fares attract more passengers, it’s more likely to keep the prices low.

Founded in 2009, Uber connects cars with passengers though its GPS-enabled smartphone app.

Many of its drivers have black Lincoln Town Cars or SUVs and compete with traditional limo or car service companies where passengers make a phone call to arrange a ride.

Uber users instead verify their location on a smartphone map, request a car, see how many minutes away it is and then track its progress as it drives to their location.

The San Francisco company’s cheaper car service, UberX, offers run-of-the-mill sedans and minivans; they lack the luster of the shiny black Town Cars, but they come at a lower cost. That service is the one now on sale.

The lower fares do not factor in Uber’s “surge pricing” – a different rate that is charged when there is great demand for cars. For instance, during heavy rain or snowstorms or busy holidays such as Halloween or New Year’s Eve, Uber has been known to double or triple its rates in some neighborhoods.

But the company and New York state attorney general said Tuesday that Uber has agreed to limit prices during emergencies, natural disasters or other unusual market disruptions, consistent with state law against price gouging.

Besides traditional taxis and car services, Uber competes with other smartphone-based car services, including Sidecar and Lyft.

The car services have encountered resistance from taxi regulators in some cities and from the airport authority in Los Angeles.

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