Dozens of angry, independent taxi medallion owners formed a new group, complaining on Wednesday that the rapid growth of the Uber ride-hailing service has seriously dented their income as they compete for fares on the city’s streets.
Attorney Norman Siegel, who represents the Taxi Driver-Owner Association said that medallion owners want a level playing field. He took issue with Uber’s ability to charge more for rides if demand outpaces supply, known as surge pricing.
“If one entity can do surge pricing, then the independent medallion owners should be able to do surge pricing,” he said. “If one entity can do apps, they should be able to do apps, too.”
The association was started by Sohan Gill, a medallion owner, after talking to friends about the loss of business they are experiencing.
“We have no hope. It’s our retirement. It’s our pensions,” Gill said.
Taxi drivers, dressed in bright-yellow T-shirts, complained about city Taxi & Limousine Commission regulations. They shouted across City Hall Plaza on Wednesday, “Take your medallion back. We want our money back.”
Uber, the leader in ride-hailing services, has in four years gone from nearly non-existent to more than 25,000 drivers, generally with their own cars, joining the city’s 13,000 taxis. This is compared to about 6,000 independent medallion owners in the city. The medallion price peaked at more than $1 million in 2013 but fell to less than $800,000 this summer, caused by a drop in taxi profits as riders flock to Uber and other e-hailing apps.
Iqbal Singh, who owns two medallions, says he is unable to sell them because banks are no longer willing to finance the loans.
“There is no lender, no lender at all,” he said. “There is no drivers, no selling it, no buying it.”
According to a taxi fact book from the city, independent medallion owners have to drive their own vehicles for at least 210 shifts each year. Most drive one shift a day and then rent their taxis to other drivers for the other shifts. The taxi medallion owners say they also are unable to find drivers to fill the second shifts.
Parveen Minhas inherited a medallion from her husband three years ago after he died. She says she’s lost 40 percent of her income because she can’t fill the second shift.
“For the past six months I don’t have a driver,” she said. “I’m driving by myself.”