Historically, the various segments operating under the purview of New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) have, more often than not, been at odds with each other. Suspicions, lies and backstabbing have been far more common than transparency and cooperation, unfortunately.
Time passes, and every few years the city’s transportation industry gets turned upside down and shaken around like a snow globe. While this has occasionally provided opportunities for a select group, most of the industry has only seen things slowly get worse… with crippling traffic, overzealous enforcement and rising costs often feeling like insurmountable challenges.
Despite having these issues in common, it seems like every time the industry would find its way back – either to “normal” or what became the “new normal” – those old suspicions would creep up and the backstabbing would begin anew. For reasons I’ve never quite understood, it seems that some people never quite seem to grasp the fact that this isn’t a zero-sum game.
It hasn’t been easy to find a silver lining in what transpired this past decade or so, but here it is: If the uncertainty and despair of a global pandemic wasn’t enough to bring together the various segment of the industry, Uber suddenly deciding to dispatch yellow taxis just might have done the trick. Let’s just hope it sticks.
If you had to pick one segment of the industry that needed help beyond all others, that seemed damaged beyond repair, you would have to go with yellow taxis. The death spiral caused by plummeting medallion values could only be averted by extraordinary acts of generosity and serious legislation. Thankfully, they’ve been getting it, between the medallion debt relief, the boost from Uber dispatches and most recently, the pay raise approved by the TLC in November. Between the various rate hikes, increased fees and new surcharges, taxi prices are expected to rise about 23%, according to MSN.
Meanwhile, industry groups like the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) helped negotiate a pay raise for high-volume for-hire vehicle (HVFHV) drivers. According to IDG president, Brendan Sexton, “New York’s Uber and Lyft drivers will soon be receiving a much-needed pay raise… in the face of soaring expenses and gas prices the last two years.”
The TLC voted in November to approve an increase to minimum driver pay for HVFHV drivers, raising per minute pay by 7.42% and per mile pay by 23.93%. During a hearing in October, IDG members shared the results of a survey of more than 1,100 Uber and Lyft drivers with the TLC. The findings included the following:
- Over 90% of drivers say that Uber and Lyft don’t pay them enough to survive.
- Nearly 80% of drivers have trouble paying their rent or mortgage.
- Two thirds of drivers have trouble making car payments, paying credit card bills and affording vehicle insurance.
- Over 50% of drivers struggle to afford food.
- Nearly 75% of drivers have children to support with their earnings.
Things may not be perfect, but they do appear to be getting better… unless, of course, you are from the traditional black car or livery sectors.
From everything I’m hearing, business has bounced back dramatically, nearing pre-pandemic numbers. The demand is there, there is just one thing missing: There simply aren’t enough drivers to cover the calls for rides.
Instead of getting a boost from the TLC’s 1,000 new EV-only FHV licenses, it felt like another gut punch. Not one traditional base will feel relief from this gesture, and it’s beyond discouraging to watch these bases limp along, slowly bleeding out from the 1,000 small cuts inflicted by the city over the years.
In February, the TLC will have another opportunity to get it right, to again re-access whether to allow traditional bases to add new drivers, to cover jobs that they’re so often forced to turn away these days. Come on TLC, City Council, Mayor Adams: Don’t you think it’s time to throw these old dogs a bone? They’re not asking for money or some special advantage. They just want to be able to accommodate the needs of their customers – people who, little by little, will simply stop seeking transportation from struggling, local mom-and-pop businesses that have been servicing NYC’s citizens and tourists for decades.