Yellow taxis throughout New York are clapping back against the influx of Uber and Lyft drivers.
App-based cars outnumber taxis by a four-to-one ratio, and yellow cab drivers are complaining about financial strains as a result of decreased business. Earlier this month, 58 year-old Roy Kim hanged himself in his home, becoming the eighth taxi driver to commit suicide in the past year; the New York Post reported that he was over $500,000 in debt after purchasing his taxi medallion last year.
“This tragedy underscores the importance of finding new ways for government, the industry and lenders to work in unity to address the financial challenges that are weighing so heavily on our licensees,” said Taxi and Limousine Commission head Meera Joshi in a statement. “Modifying, restructuring and lowering loans would go a long way in providing relief and keeping taxi services available to New Yorkers for years to come.”
News of the suicide came yesterday, on the same day that Waave, a recently launched app that helps New Yorkers hail taxis via phone, announced that it was offering a permanent 50-percent discount to commuters going to Manhattan during morning and evening rush hours. Waave gives riders the ability to request rides and get upfront pricing, basically applying the Uber and Lyft models to yellow cabs.
Before you get too excited: This doesn’t mean that you’re getting half off of the metered fare. Unlike Curb and Arro, which base their fares on taxi meters, Waave uses its own pricing algorithm. A spokesperson didn’t provide the exact formula when asked, but around noon today (so, after rush hour), we used some popular ride-hailing apps to price a ride from the Bedford stop to the Bowery stop. Curb gave us an estimated fare of $15. Waave quoted us $14.20, Lyft quoted $12.13, and Uber quoted $17.45. Arro gave us an “unknown error” message, proving that sometimes throwing a hand in the air and whistling is the way to go.
What’s more, Waave’s discount isn’t on all cabs driving from the outerboroughs to Manhattan from 6am to 10am and from 5pm to 8pm. It’s only on cabs that would otherwise be empty during those hours as they commute into Manhattan to pick up their first fare. You won’t get a discount if none of those happen to be on the road. (A spokesperson says they’re more likely to be available at, say, 6am than 10am.)
Meanwhile, the city has announced, according to amNY, that a new task force will be set up to study the fact that, since 2013, New York City’s taxicab medallions have lost their value by as much as 90 percent. City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez introduced the bill in hopes of coming up with ways to help struggling drivers.
Over the summer, the city began efforts to inhibit Uber and Lyft’s domination on ride sharing by issuing a one-year moratorium on the issuance of new for-hire vehicle licenses, pending a study of the rapidly growing rideshare industry and its impact on yellow taxis. But many taxi drivers complained that this measure did not go far enough in helping them compete.