By Ameena Walker
The value of yellow taxi medallions has been plummeting amid competition from ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft and in June, things hit a new low when it was announced 139 medallions would head to bankruptcy auction. The medallions were once worth as much as $1.3 million but have recently been auctioned off for as little as $160,000.
In an attempt to give taxi medallion owners a much-needed lifeline, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has announced that it will waive $1,100 in renewal fees for the city’s 11,286 medallion owners, reports the New York Daily News. This amounts to more than $12.4 million in relief from the city and the de Blasio administration.
The waive was advocated for by City Councilmember Mark Levine, who also introduced legislation for the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to conduct a study on the economic hardships that medallion owners are facing. “Independent owner-drivers who played by the rules set by the city are now enduring extraordinary financial hardships through absolutely no fault of their own,” said Levine in a statement. “After having bought an asset because they had a guarantee from the city about its underlying value, our city has failed these small business owners.”
At least six taxi drivers have taken their own lives, many due to the mounting economic burdens they face as yellow taxi ridership continues to decline.
In August, the New York City Council approved of legislation that placed a temporary cap on the number of ride-hailing vehicles provided by companies like Uber and Lyft. The cap was prompted after the city estimated that there are now more than 100,000 licensed for-hire vehicles on the city’s streets, impacting traffic and transit. The temporary cap will allow the city to further study these impacts.
Meanwhile, the TLC has debuted a new smartphone app, called Waave, that is part of a two-year pilot program and offers yellow and green taxi passengers to get upfront, surge-free fare pricing, as well as estimated arrival times before they hail a trip. The program is also offered in the outer boroughs.