Op-Ed: As Uber Falters, Yellow Taxis Provide Great Opportunities For Drivers

By David Beier

Although it is no secret that Uber is facing an ongoing leadership and integrity crisis, the yellow taxi industry is proving it is not going anywhere. The iconic yellow cab is surging back with a competitive edge and growing opportunity for its drivers.

The taxi industry is evolving and the future is bright for thousands of the City’s yellow taxi drivers as they embrace and adjust to a changing market. Yellow taxi drivers have an opportunity to build a true path to the middle class and provide access to college and homeownership for their families. This is done with monetary incentives, flexible hours, new technologies available at their fingertips, and workplace rights that drivers at ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft do not have.

Initially, yellow taxi drivers take more money home. According to the most recent data released by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), the average hourly gross income by a yellow taxi driver was $30.41 in 2016 compared to an approximate hourly gross of $17.00 for Uber drivers in cities like New York. Taxi drivers have protections – such as transparent leases regulated by the TLC and lease caps, saving them thousands of dollars. Uber drivers are constantly exploited paying increasing commissions to the ridesharing giant while Uber reduces fares.

Also, yellow taxi drivers have more opportunities to pick up passengers. Not only can they pick up street hails, taxi drivers also have the option to use e-hail apps like Arro, Curb, and Via. In recognizing the growing popularity of using ridesharing apps across New York City, yellow taxis, to be more competitive, piloted a cashless paying program for sharing rides via apps.

In contrast to yellow taxi medallions whose numbers are capped, ridesharing drivers are constantly competing for an ever smaller number of rides. Uber keeps adding drivers and vehicles to its constantly growing ranks, but has not similarly kept increasing at the same rate the number of passengers it carries. As a result, Uber drivers have less fares and less income.

In addition, yellow taxi drivers are respected and supported by the industry and the public. The yellow taxi is as iconic as Lady Liberty. Taxi drivers are unequivocally your best guide in New York City and to ensure drivers are ready for their next shift, they have access to the taxi center in Long Island City. The taxi center, which opened in 2015, is a place for drivers to rest, meet with colleagues, receive free training in defensive driving and learn how to best assist passengers in wheelchairs as well as get assistance on the licensing and the renewal process. Moreover, TLC statistics show that drivers who drove full time had less accidents and received fewer tickets than drivers who drove part time. Driving a taxi is the full-time job of most drivers. For Uber drivers, its their second or third gig.

As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding and Uber has an extremely high turnover. By its own admission, approximately one half of all drivers stop driving for Uber after six months. If its drivers were happy with their working conditions and income, they would not be leaving in droves.

Finally and unfortunately, ridesharing companies like Uber are upending labor standards for which workers have fought for. Uber have taken earnings from their drivers by “miscalculating” commissions. This year in New York City, Uber “miscalculated” driver commissions and kept an extra $45 million that was rightfully earned by 50,000 Uber drivers.

It’s without a doubt that the hail is here to stay. Uber’s ongoing failures are just a reminder that the taxi industry remains the best option for safe trips for the public, and for drivers who want to make more money, better support their families and be supported by an industry that is actually looking out for their best interests.

David Beier, is the president of Committee for Taxi Safety, an association of taxi leasing agents.

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