Final week, as we had been mourning 4 skilled drivers who had been pushed to suicide up to now 4 months, Albany handed a surcharge on the exact same New Yorkers who’re dealing with monetary hardship like by no means earlier than.
A brand new price tacked onto fares beneath 96th St. will price $2.50 per yellow cab journey and $2.75 for rides with Uber, Lyft and different for-hire car companies.
The congestion pricing surcharge is a slap within the face to a workforce in disaster. Drivers like me will lose enterprise — the aim of the surcharge — and lose tip cash we depend on to make ends meet in these troublesome occasions.
I began driving a yellow cab greater than 30 years in the past — earlier than I married and raised six youngsters on this metropolis. My oldest is now 28. The mom of my youngsters, Ranjeet, can also be knowledgeable driver; she drives for Uber.
In all of the years I’ve been driving, I’ve by no means had a buyer grievance with the Taxi and Limousine Fee or a license suspension. I’ve served a couple of quarter-million individuals. However my revenue has dropped to poverty degree.
I haven’t had a time off since 2013. Day-after-day, I get up round 2 p.m., then I drive my yellow taxi from four p.m. to round 6 a.m. I attempt to get about seven hours of sleep an evening, which leaves me with treasured few hours of free time a day.
Of the 4 latest driver suicides, one, Douglas Schifter, was a black automotive driver; two had been livery drivers within the Bronx, Danilo Corporan Castillo and Alfredo Perez, and the latest, Nicanor Ochisor, was a yellow cab owner-driver like me.
This assault on our incomes comes at a time when streets are full of so many automobiles than none of us can earn a dwelling anymore. Congestion is an issue as a result of the town refuses to control company bullies like Uber and Lyft and cap the variety of automobiles they’ll dump onto our streets.
This surcharge is especially egregious for yellow cab drivers, who’ve already contributed near $1 billion towards the Metropolitan Transportation Authority since 2009. Yellow and inexperienced cabs pay a 50-cent surcharge to the MTA on every journey. In a single yr alone, we added $95 million to the MTA’s revenue by that surcharge.
On high of the prevailing surcharge, yellow cab lease drivers pay a gross sales tax of $four.77 a shift; that’s additionally earmarked for the MTA.
I’ve given near 10% of my revenue since 2009 to help the MTA. Even when the bank card firm takes 5% out of my fare, I pay the complete quantity out of pocket to maintain the subways and buses operating.
In the meantime, Uber spent $100,000 lobbying crooked politicians within the statehouse for this model of the surcharge. Why? As a result of it solely tacks on 75 cents per UberPool passenger.
UberPool, Through and Lyft Line — all ride-sharing companies — are in direct competitors with the MTA. They pull passengers off public transit and put them in vehicles, taking away funds the MTA wants and slowing down buses.
That is patently unfair. Yellow cab medallions are regulated by the Taxi and Limousine Fee and capped at 13,600 — in contrast to Uber and Lyft, which might drown us in limitless variety of automobiles, choking visitors.
Proudly owning my very own medallion was supposed to provide me financial safety. Now not would I’ve to lease a medallion from a fleet proprietor. And like a home, my medallion was an asset that was meant to assist help my household and permit me to retire with dignity.
However the metropolis broke its promise to me and the opposite drivers who’ve served New York.
When the town went from about 50,000 whole taxi and for-hire automobiles to round 100,000, I watched my revenue plummet. Visitors has floor to a halt. Ranjeet’s revenue as an Uber driver additionally plummeted.
My well being has worsened as I’ve needed to work longer hours, too. I’m diabetic, and I now have much less time to care for my well-being. This surcharge will solely make issues tougher.
The true resolution — the one that may require politicians to face as much as these Wall-Avenue-backed firms — is to place a cap on the variety of automobiles on metropolis streets, not preserve taking more cash out of drivers’ pockets.
Town can cap the whole variety of vehicles now, not add new ones as drivers go away, then require the TLC to look at over driver incomes, buyer wait occasions, and congestion. And let these components not Wall Avenue greed decide what number of vehicles are wanted to guard skilled drivers and the New Yorkers we serve.
It’s straightforward to make this downside out to be yellow cab drivers versus Uber drivers, however as my circle of relatives can attest, we’re all struggling now.
Singh is a New York Metropolis yellow cab owner-driver married to an Uber driver. He’s on the organizing committee for the New York Taxi Employees Alliance, the union that represents greater than 19,000 skilled drivers within the metropolis.