As New York’s streets open, drivers fear emptying their jobs

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While New York City still awaits the return of many locals and commuters, some streets are already crowded – and rental vehicle drivers like Demetrio Tejada are not happy.”I am totally against sharing the street with restaurants,” said the taxi driver in Spanish.


What would you like to know

  • Rental vehicles find new streetscape thanks to COVID-19
  • Industry wants to be seen as a safe transport option during pandemic
  • New cars registered by New Yorkers increased 31% in July compared to the same month last year


In addition to the financial and health stress, many taxi and rental vehicle drivers now feel the space they once occupied before COVID-19 arrived in New York City is getting smaller.“Our drivers have been made aware of a new standard: smaller streets, more space for buses, more space for bicycles,” said Cira Ángeles, taxi and livery insurance broker and spokesperson of the Livery Base Owners Association. “Now it is a reality that you must share the streets.”

The Open Streets program has provided much-needed relief to socially remote New Yorkers and cash-strapped bars and restaurants. The city has also expanded bus and bus lanes, and the demand for bicycles has skyrocketed.

“My concern is, when new bus lanes, new streets are closed, and also new spaces are given for delivery trucks and loading areas, all of this is a matter of re-educating our community, re-educating our drivers. ”Said Ángeles.

Ángeles served on the Surface Transportation Advisory Council that Mayor Bill de Blasio convened in the spring. She would like the city to market the rental vehicle industry as a safe transportation option, especially now as many drivers are spending their own money on fitting their cars with partitions and taking other safety measures.

“The city is ready to have no vehicles on the road, and uses more of a bikes, walking and open streets approach – which we support, because the community needs this space, but at the same time, we provide an essential service. in the city, because many people still refuse to take public transport, ”Ángeles said. “We are therefore an essential transportation system in our boroughs.”

So far, de Blasio has gone so far as to advise New Yorkers not to buy new cars.

“Cars are a thing of the past,” the mayor said last Thursday. “The future will be public transport, cycling, walking. ”

But are New Yorkers listening?

If we compare June 2019 and June 2020, we see a 6% increase in the total number of new cars registered by New York residents, according to data compiled by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

This increase is more pronounced in July: a peak of 31% this year compared to July 2019.

It’s important to note, however, that from the end of March through May 31, the DMV – with a few exceptions – only processed new registrations for essential workers.

Sarah Kaufman, of the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University and a member of the mayor’s Surface Transportation Council, believes that sooner or later things will get back to normal.

“There are quite a few predictions about this ‘carmageddon’ scenario, where the streets of Manhattan are just completely blocked off,” Kaufman said. “That being said, I think people who end up sitting in traffic for hours on end will soon realize that this isn’t the best way to get around New York City.”

For now, the taxi and rental vehicle industry will have to navigate this new reality. The longer this reality lasts, the more difficult it will be to return to the pre-pandemic streetscape.

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Main story file image: Matt Rourke / AP.

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