The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the livelihoods of many taxi drivers who were already struggling to cope, myself included. As a taxi driver for 14 years this was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The foot traffic we rely on for customers has declined as offices closed, tourists disappeared and quarantine restrictions kept people at home. In fact, only about half of the yellow cabs have returned to New York streets, as Manhattan offices remain at low capacity and tourists have only recently started returning to New York.
My family deeply felt this struggle. For us, driving yellow cabs is not just a job, it has been part of our life since we arrived in the United States after fleeing the civil war in Sierra Leone. My whole family now drives yellow cabs for a living, starting with my brother who was the first to arrive in New York. I immigrated here in September 2003 and almost immediately chose to be a yellow cab driver.
My family and other drivers need creative solutions to help us continue to provide an essential service to our fellow New Yorkers. While some apps for hailing taxis exist, none have a customer base that can compete with Uber and Lyft. This is why the recently announced partnership between taxi tech companies like CMT and Uber is a big deal. This ends our years-long struggle with ride-hailing apps for customers, giving drivers like me access to Uber’s millions of users. This helps New Yorkers who use Uber but also tourists who will be flocking to our city again but don’t yet have local taxi apps on their smartphones.
This is especially important when taxis leave Manhattan, airports and busy transportation hubs, as it is often difficult to find a street outside of these areas. While taxis rely on density to physically see street hails, apps like Uber can “see around bends” so passenger density is less important.
Now, by listing taxis alongside black cars on the Uber app and giving us access to Uber’s global customers, we can have a reliable number of riders across the city, which increases driver revenue and offers greater transportation options to customers. However, it’s not just a win for taxi drivers – listing taxis on the Uber app means reduced wait times for Uber customers, allowing busy New Yorkers to get to destination quickly and safely. This is also a win for our city, as this partnership will result in better use of Ubers and taxis, minimizing empty vehicles on city streets.
This partnership is a smart solution to some of the issues that racers and drivers face. I will always be a yellow cab driver – from my first month where I constantly called my brother for directions, to today where I can navigate any neighborhood while chatting with passengers in the car. news on 1010 WINS, driving a yellow cab will forever be a central part of my life and that of my family. It’s the creative path I was hoping for and I’m looking forward to my first Uber request.