Demand collapsed: New York’s world-famous “Yellow Cabs” could disappear


Consequences of the corona pandemic
New York’s world-famous “Yellow Cabs” could disappear

Part of the cityscape of New York: the yellow taxis
© batuhanozdel / Getty Images

Driving services such as Uber and Co used the famous yellow taxis in New York even before Corona. Now the pandemic is causing the demand for the “Yellow Cabs” to collapse further.

Day and night they were omnipresent on the streets of New York, representing the metropolis like the Empire State Building – the world-famous yellow taxis. But because many New Yorkers are now working at home, schools are closed and there are hardly any tourists, the pandemic could now make the iconic vehicles disappear from the cityscape.

One morning at La Guardia airport, a few dozen “yellow cabs” are waiting for customers in the freezing cold. “This parking lot used to be full of hundreds of taxis, and there was even a line outside,” says 65-year-old driver Joey Olivo. “Now there are only around 50 and you wait two hours, whereas previously you only had to wait 20 minutes.”

Taxi driver Joey Olivo is sitting in his yellow cab

Taxi driver Joey Olivo, 65, has to cope with an 80 percent drop in sales
© Angela Weiss / AFP

His earnings have fallen by 80 percent, says Olivo. “I used to make $ 1,000 a week, now $ 200 or $ 300.” If his wife didn’t “make good money” as a nurse, he wouldn’t know what to do next.

Competition from Uber and Co

New York taxi drivers, most first-generation immigrants, used to earn $ 7,000 or more a month by working overtime, seven days a week. But then the competition from Uber, Lyft and other transport services reduced their income drastically. With the pandemic it is now “in free fall,” says the 62-year-old taxi driver Richard Chow, who comes from Myanmar.

Chow is lucky, he bought his taxi license – called the Medallion in New York – for $ 410,000 in 2006. In the years that followed, these license fees continued to rise, fueled by a network of bankers, investors and lawyers. In 2009, his younger brother Kenny Chow paid $ 750,000 for his medallion, and in 2014 the price reached $ 1 million.

© The  success of Uber and Co. then burst the bubble and bankrupted thousands who had bought the license on credit. In 2018, Kenny Chow and at least seven other drivers committed suicide. Now the coronavirus has made the situation even worse. “©

 The  pandemic is devastating,” says Bhairavi Desai of the Taxi Workers Alliance. “Before the pandemic, the number of passengers had dropped by 50 percent, now the decrease is 90 percent.”

7000 taxis in the garage

According to the union, of around 13,000 licenses, only around 5,000 taxis currently drive regularly. About 7000 don’t even leave their garage. William Pierre continues to drive, despite making little more than $ 100 to $ 150 a day. He still has to give 50 percent of this to the company from which he leases his vehicle. “I don’t want to stay at home,” says the driver from Haiti. “I want to be out there to support my family.”

Could the yellow taxis that replaced striped vehicles in the 1960s actually become extinct? Union representative Desai is calling for the city to cancel the debt of the drivers so it doesn’t come to that. And New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio promised help – provided the federal government in Washington gives the city hard by the pandemic a helping hand.


 The  union is now stepping up the protests, with dozens of drivers blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge last Wednesday. “When you see that yellow, you know you’re in New York,” enthuses Desai. “It is a landmark, part of the economic, social and cultural fabric of our beautiful city.”

Do you have suicidal thoughts? Help is offered by telephone counseling. It is anonymous, free and available around the clock at 0 800/111 0 111 and 0 800/111 0 222. Advice via email is also possible. A list of nationwide aid centers can be found on the website of the German Society for Suicide Prevention.

Catherine Triomphe/ikr

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Demand collapsed Yorks worldfamous Yellow Cabs disappear


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