New York City’s yellow cab drivers are earning one-third less than they were six years ago.
Fresh data from the city obtained by the Daily News Wednesday offers new insight into the catastrophic demise of the taxi industry, which until 2013 had a virtual monopoly over ride hails across the five boroughs.
In March 2013, when yellow cab ridership peaked at nearly a half million rides per day, the average yellow cab medallion grossed approximately $14,400 a month. But that was before green cabs and app-based hailing companies Uber and Lyft hit the scene.
This past March, each yellow cab earned roughly $9,100 ― a revenue drop of 36% over six years.
The decline is even steeper than the 30% drop the Daily News found in a previous analysis, which did not factor for surcharges, fees, tips and tolls.
In contrast, app-based for-hire vehicles enjoyed a record level of ridership this March. Uber, Lyft, Juno and Via combined for nearly 770,000 daily trips.
Yellows did just 252,000 hails per day, the industry’s lowest level March ridership since at least 2011, the earliest year in which data is available.
Uber and Lyft both sued the city this year over new regulations that capped the number of cars on the street and set minimum wage for drivers. The companies said the regs are unfair to them, but their recent growth shows they are gobbling up more and more of the car trips taken across the five boroughs.
The ride-sharing apps are far from the only factors causing hardship for yellow cab drivers. Predatory lending practices within the medallion industry upended the lives of hundreds — if not thousands — of drivers.
While yellow cab ridership fell by nearly 50% from March 2013 to March 2019, the average selling price of the medallions dropped by 68% between that same time frame. In March 2013, a medallion commanded $662,000 on average. In subsequent years, some medallion sales even topped $1 million.
But by March 2019, the average price had deflated to $210,000.
On Wednesday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson questioned a recent report that said yellow cab rider revenue had only decreased by 10% since 2011.
“I would think the drop is higher than that given the impact we’ve seen on the industry and the upheaval,” Johnson said. “I think that you probably need another look.”
Nicolae Hent, a yellow cab driver who has been a vocal advocate for the industry, said he estimates the bulk of drivers are earning less than half of what they used to, once total hours are factored in.
Hent said Uber and Lyft — which never had to buy pricey medallions — have a leg up on the market. He thinks the city violated what he described as an “exclusive contract” with medallion owners.
“Competition is good for customers, but you cannot let someone come into business with free licences,” said Hent. “If they have a free license, I should have a free license.”
Uber And Lyft Drivers Slow Down NYC Traffic To Protest App Changes
Traffic was backed up on the Brooklyn Bridge and FDR Drive on Tuesday when hundreds of Uber and Lyft drivers conducted a “slow vehicle procession” toward Gracie Mansion to protest new changes to the companies’ apps. Drivers are arguing that the companies are preventing them from earning a living—and want the Mayor and City Council to step in.
According to the Independent Drivers Guild, “Starting on Tuesday Uber will enact new policies to kick drivers off the apps between trips and in areas of lower demand in order to avoid paying drivers as required by New York City’s pay regulations. Lyft enacted a similar policy earlier this summer to protests from the Drivers Guild. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has failed to take action, so the Drivers Guild is calling for the Mayor and City Council to stop the apps from violating the pay rules in an attempt to scam drivers out of fair pay.”
In June, Lyft changed its policy to comply with minimum-wage laws. As Crain’s explained it, “The new payment formula looks at how much of the time a driver cruises with an empty car. The more cruising a driver does, the more fare revenue the app-based company needs to share to ensure the driver makes at least $17 an hour after expenses. App-based services with a high ‘utilization rate’—meaning their drivers are ferrying passengers nearly 60% of the time—can contribute less to the driver’s pay. To reduce congestion in Midtown the Taxi and Limousine Commission wants fewer empty cars.”
Now Uber is following suit, not that it nor Lyft want to; Lyft had filed (and then dropped) a lawsuit challenging the minimum wage rule, while Uber said in a statement on Monday, “Time and again we’ve seen Mayor (Bill) de Blasio’s TLC pass arbitrary and politically-driven rules that have unintended consequences for drivers and riders.”
The Independent Drivers Guild argued, “By logging drivers off the app and requiring them to travel to an area of higher demand in order to pick up their next trip, Lyft would be shifting the costs of travel and waiting time onto the drivers and in so doing, violate this commission’s rules.”
NYC’s own yellow cab industry is in crisis, in part because of increased competition from the app-based services. The IDG has asked for a Drivers’ Bill of Rights, which would prevent the apps from deactivating drivers without a stated cause, among other guarantees.
Uber to limit drivers’ app access to comply with NYC regulation
Uber on Tuesday will begin limiting drivers’ access to its app in New York City to comply with regulation aimed at boosting drivers’ pay and easing congestion in Manhattan, laws that Uber says will have unintended consequences.
Uber Technologies Inc’s move to lock out drivers at times and in areas of low demand comes just months after rival Lyft Inc implemented similar measures in response to city regulation.
Both companies oppose the unprecedented rules, saying they will prevent drivers from earning money and cut off low-income New Yorkers in remote areas not serviced by regular taxis, a claim the city rejects.
“Time and again we’ve seen Mayor (Bill) de Blasio’s TLC pass arbitrary and politically-driven rules that have unintended consequences for drivers and riders,” Uber said in a statement on Monday.
New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) last year implemented several laws challenging the way ride-share companies operate in North America’s largest city, one of the industry’s largest markets.
The agency’s acting commissioner, Bill Heinzen, in a statement on Monday defended the laws, saying they held companies accountable and prevented Uber and Lyft from oversaturating the market at drivers’ expense.
New rules cap the number of app-based, for-hire cars and established minimum pay for the city’s 80,000 ride-share drivers based on how much time they spend transporting passengers.
The laws also limit the time drivers spend “cruising” – driving to or waiting to pick up new passengers. Starting in February, ride-share companies have to reduce cruising rates by 5% and later by 10%, down from currently 41%. Non-compliance can result in fines or even the inability to operate in the city.
The rules are aimed at reducing congestion in Manhattan, where ride-share vehicles make up close to a third of peak time traffic, according to the TLC.
Uber said there was no evidence showing the steps would ease congestion. The company supported a $2.75 congestion surcharge implemented for Manhattan ride-share trips earlier this year.
Lyft in June changed its app to lock out drivers during low demand. The company said it supports drivers during the change, for example by showing them areas with high demand or times during which restrictions are lifted.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a union representing taxi and app-based drivers, said the companies were trying to scare drivers.
“Uber is now spreading fear and disinformation to New York drivers, attempting to convince workers that rules protecting their livelihoods are to blame for Uber’s greedy policies,” the union said in a statement.
Plans for Melbourne’s flying taxi service get serious as Uber Air head appointed
Uber has announced the appointment of Natalie Malligan as the new head of Uber Air for Australia, charged with getting the company’s flying taxi service off the ground in Melbourne.
Announcing the appointment in a blog post late Monday, Uber Australia said Malligan will be responsible for making Uber’s ambitious urban aviation plans a reality, working alongside the Victorian government, Melbourne Airport, federal aviation agencies, and Melbourne communities.
Uber Air has been touted by the company as an “urban aviation ride-sharing product”, which it hopes will ease traffic congestion on the ground.
Melbourne in June was announced as the third pilot city for Uber to trial Uber Air, and the first outside of the United States.
Test flights have been pencilled in for next year, with plans for commercial operations to commence from 2023.
“In the long term, the vision is for safe, quiet electric vehicles transporting tens of thousands of people across cities for the same price as an UberX trip over the same distance,” Uber said in a statement when announcing the initiative down under.
The company in August last year announced five possible markets to launch its pipedream: Australia, Brazil, France, India, and Japan. It also confirmed that from 2023, customers will be able to get a flight on-demand in Dallas and Los Angeles.
Uber had in February told an Australian House Infrastructure, Transport and Cities Committee that it was keen to trial Uber Air in either Melbourne or Sydney and that it just needed Australian governments to work alongside the Silicon Valley darling to make that happen.
In announcing Uber Air was coming to Australia, the company announced partnerships with Macquarie, Telstra, and Westfield-operator Scentre Group, and said it would work with existing partners including Melbourne Airport to develop the infrastructure and telecommunications needed to create the aviation network.
Malligan was previously Uber’s head of cities for Australia and New Zealand.
She previously worked as a manager in Bain and Company’s Private Equity practice in San Francisco and Sydney and holds a combined Bachelor of Commerce and Law degree from the University of Sydney, and a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University in New York.
Meanwhile, Airbus is working on its own air taxi product, Vahana, with the company in July showing off a full-scale demonstrator vehicle that recently completed a full transition flight.
Vahana has undertaken more than 80 flight tests since last year, which the company said help to validate the overall design and configuration. The lessons learned from Vahana, Airbus said, will enable Airbus Urban Mobility to develop a future market-ready electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle.
Airbus also has a partnership with Audi.
In the eVOTL space, there’s also competition coming from NFT with its Aska dual-purpose vehicle designed both to drive on roads and to fly through the air; Kitty Hawk, funded by Google co-founder Larry Page and led by self-driving car pioneer Sebastian Thrun; Ehang from China; Terrafugia, which hopes to sell its flying car in 2019; and AeroMobil in Slovakia, which like NFT, hopes for a hybrid flying-driving vehicle.
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