By ANDREW HUGHES
New York City taxi drivers showed up in droves to the City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s public hearing in Downtown Manhattan Thursday to air their grievances with what they regarded as unfair wages for cabbies in the era of ride-hailing apps.
Commissioner Meera Joshi oversaw the hearing which heard scores of witnesses from current and former employees.
Angel Fernandez, a former taxi driver, was critical of the continued decline of the street taxi.
“I used to be a taxi driver but when Uber came around and started being competitive I switched so I can give myself a better chance to pay my bills,” said Fernandez. “Uber’s fares were lowered but taxis were not. In no other industry are the expenses rising but the incomes becoming lower.”
Mustafa Alton, a current New York taxi driver, was awe-struck by recent news that a taxi medallion was sold for its lowest value in a decade.
“$241,000?” he said in disbelief. ” The fact that a taxi medallion was sold for that low shows the state of our industry.”
It was only a few years ago that medallions regularly sold for over $1,000,000. In fact, in 2014, an auction for two medallions had a price tag of $2,500,000.
The Commission claims that overall trip numbers have increased in recent years, according to the press release for the event. There were 70,000,000 trips in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 14 percent increase over the same period in 2015. Despite the optimism from the Commission, there was mostly concern expressed by the scores of witnesses.
One was a local celebrity. David Pollack, nicknamed “Taxi Dave,” who hosts his own taxi-themed radio show on WOR-AM (710) which is primarily listened to by yellow cab drivers on Sundays at 8 P.M. Pollack, who wore a smile after receiving some applause as he approached the podium, spoke about how the competition is all but flooding the market and how business for yellow cabs are drowning because of it.
“We all know about Uber, Lyft and these other ride share services,” said Pollack. He continued, “These businesses are easier for consumers and offer more for less money, including knowing who your driver is.”
“These companies are easier to reach and are lowering fares as taxis are raising them.”
Despite the positive picture the Commission is trying to paint, the long-term outlook is grim for the yellow taxi industry. With the rise of Uber and similar companies, it could only be a matter of time before the yellow cab is a relic of the past, transportation experts say.