On Tuesday, irate taxi drivers met outside New York’s City Hall to demand tighter regulation of ride-hailing services such as Uber after the suicide of five cab drivers in the past few months.
The executive director of NYTWA (New York Taxi Workers Alliance), Bhairavi Desai, said cab driver wages have been driven down by the influx of ride-hailing cars over the past several years. This forced many cab drivers to the brink of despair.
Desai’s group is calling for a limit on the number of Uber and similar ride-hailing cars on city streets. The group also wants the city to increase wages by ensuring minimum metered fares are uniform across the cab industry. Most cab drivers say they have lost or experienced a reduction in revenue since the inception of ride-hailing vehicles.
According to the NYCTLC (New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission), approximately 70,000 app-based cars compete with 4,000 green taxis, 13,500 yellow taxis, and 30,000 livery cars and black cars. The commission also stated that 2,000 vehicles are licensed every month, and the majority serve app-based companies.
At the City Hall rally, a number of speakers rallied against “Wall Street” and Uber for undercutting fares of traditional cab drivers. One speaker, Victor Salazar who is a taxi workers alliance member said “Shame on the apps, shame on Uber and the gig economy.”
An Uber spokeswoman, Danielle Filson said that drivers who have medallions were exploited by lenders and left behind by change. She said Uber supports any action that will ease the financial burden of such drivers.
A raft of bills geared towards assisting all taxi drivers is being considered by the Council Committee on For-Hire Vehicles in New York City. The consideration includes legislation that would put a cap on the number of for-hire vehicle licenses in the city in a bid to increase drivers’ earnings.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Spokesmen Speaker Corey Johnsons said in separate statements on Tuesday that they are finding ways to improve conditions for cab drivers. Desai said the best hope for the industry lied in legislation. Anything that is not legislation was lip service, she added in her closing statement.