Kenny Chow was one of six taxi drivers that chose to commit suicide in the last six months. He died at the age of 56.
He entered the taxi industry with his brother Richard Chow 10 years ago, borrowing money from the bank to be able to pay for a taxi medallion.
“Due to the prosperity of ride-sharing services, the traditional taxi business decreases,” said Richard. “He borrowed money from the bank to buy the medallion, for 700,000 US dollars. The business was good at the beginning, in recent 5 years, he started to earn less and less.”
Eventually, Kenny fell behind on medallion loan payments. Along with personal health problems and debt, he fell into despair.
Every taxi driver in New York City is required to own a medallion. The medallion system regulates pricing and limits the numbers of taxis on New York City streets.
The yellow taxi was once capped for many years, causing the medallion to increase in value. Five years ago, they were changing hands at a price reaching $1 million dollars. Since Uber and other rideshare companies entered the market, the value of the medallion has fallen to around $200,000.
The emergence of Uber has changed the way people live. Passengers do not have to go to the streets to hail a cab.
Laurence, a New Yorker said: “I can use the app and I will have the driver come to me. I will be able to pay on the app, rather than cash. The other convenient part about Uber is that the driver already knows where I want to go by the time they come to me.”
Currently, there are 80,000 yellow taxi and 80,000 ride-hailing cars in New York City streets.
According to Mr. Huang, a taxi driver, the competition is high, and earning money is more and more difficult. “One guest goes down, can’t find another one. It’s hard to find another guest. It’s different in previous years. It’s at least half of it, and you can’t make money now.”
On Aug. 14th, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio signed a bill to instate a moratorium on new licenses for car-sharing services. Taxi drivers, council members, and supporters came to union square the next day to celebrate.
New York is the first large city in the United States to impose such restrictions.
Richard said: “I am very happy that the proposal is approved. Actually, if my brother knows, he will be more happy.”
Also, an increase of approximately 20 percent on average for-hire vehicle driver take-home pay was approved.
De Blasio said: “By October, a new minimum compensation rule, the thing we’ve need for so long, this guarantees that drivers get a decent income.”
“The city’s 12-month pause on new vehicle licenses will threaten one of the few reliable transportation options while doing nothing to fix the subways or ease congestion,” said a spokesperson from Uber in a statement.
“These sweeping cuts to transportation will bring New Yorkers back to an era of struggling to get a ride, particularly for communities of color and in the outer boroughs,” stated Lyft’s vice president of public policy, Joseph Okpaku.
New York City Councilman Corey Johnson wants to make it clear that he is not against Uber or Lyft. “This was never a war on a segment of this industry. I’ve taken Uber before and I’m sure I will take it again.”