How the coronavirus has already hit New York’s yellow cab industry


Dorothy Leconte has been a yellow cab driver since the 1980s. She takes her cab to Columbus Circle one August afternoon to meet me, even though she says she hasn’t worked since March.“I haven’t come back to work yet,” says Leconte. “Because there is no work in the city.”

A long line of taxis and almost no passengers.

As soon as COVID-19 arrived in New York City and the city went into lockdown, the number of cab rides dropped and many drivers decided to stay home.

What would you like to know

  • Only one in four yellow taxi drivers worked at the end of June
  • Without tourists, theatergoers and businessmen, taxi drivers cannot find many passengers.
  • The yellow taxi sector was already in great difficulty before the pandemic
  • TLC chair: the city will have to be creative to save the sector

According to a recent report by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), yellow cabs operating in New York City fell from 11,435 in January to a low of 2,193 at the height of the pandemic in April.By the end of June, that number had risen slightly to 2,965, or one in four.

Industry-wide active drivers have seen their incomes cut to less than half.

“A job I used to work and earn $ 600 to $ 700 a day, drop to $ 50 a day, for nine hours, I don’t even earn $ 10 an hour,” says Leconte, which has a yellow taxi medallion.

The strength of the yellow cab sector of the taxi industry came from the hail collection monopoly under 96th Street in Manhattan. Now, without tourists, theatergoers or businessmen, this advantage could become his curse.

“Very dark situation, very, very dark situation,” explains Mohammed Mahbub, another yellow taxi driver and owner of a medallion.

This sector of the taxi industry was already in deep crisis before the pandemic. The price of the locket – once a safe and profitable asset – has fallen in a few years from nearly $ 1 million to less than $ 200,000, leaving many drivers in debt.

Desperation led to a series of suicides.

“We need debt relief, we don’t want suicide anymore. Already 11 taxi – more than 11 taxi driver suicide. They can’t take it. They can’t take it, ”says Mahbub.

Some type of rescue was suggested before the pandemic, a possibility the mayor dismissed a few weeks ago.

City sign offers multi-million dollar rescue for Medallion taxi

“It’s the dying part of the industry, yes,” Mahbub says, hoping the city and state will help save the business.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission has helped some drivers obtain a temporary stay from the banks. Its president, Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk, believes the city will have to find creative ways to save the area.

I asked her if she thought this was the end of the iconic yellow cab in New York City.

“Absolutely not,” she replies, “can you imagine a New York City without yellow cabs? I can not. And, absolutely, I would never allow that to happen under my watch.

For drivers, however, the future looks more uncertain than ever.

“I don’t know, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Leconte said. “I swear I don’t know what I’m going to do.”


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Main image of story file: Mary Altaffer / AP.


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