Taxicab industry struggling to recover after pandemic, effort underway to reimagine

U.S.

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — You may have noticed higher fares the last time you ordered a ride using an app. According to experts, there are fewer drivers behind the wheel of these services. And while cabs have long struggled with an ever-evolving industry, there are fewer of them too due to the pandemic.

However, the traditional taxi may be making a comeback. 

As the world gets vaccinated, more are considering vacation in some of the nation’s biggest cities. However, there appear to be fewer rideshare and taxi drivers on the road as passengers return to public life. 

In Chicago, NewsNation reached out to the union representing cab drivers. Only 880 taxis are currently operating — that’s compared to more than 3,000 in 2019.

In Las Vegas, one taxi company said people are calling cabs again because there are so many tourists and not enough cars.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls through the rideshare not being there for the public. Tourists are coming back, locals are on the move,” said Mariano Lucado, who managed Deluxe Taxicab Service.

That’s after as much as a 65% drop in monthly trips year over year, according to the Nevada Taxicab Authority. Now, Lucado is having a hard time re-hiring drivers.

“Demand is going up and the drivers are not there,” he said. “A lot of them…just we couldn’t find them. They just disappeared. And a lot of drivers are still scared.”

Scared, in part, of getting sick according to those NewsNation spoke with. Others are still able to collect unemployment. 

According to Northwestern University’s Transportation Center, it’s not surprising some city’s fares are more expensive.

Furkan Muhammed, who represents a number of taxi drivers says riders who’ve exclusively used apps might just find it’s more affordable to hail a cab at the moment.

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In New York City — synonymous with the iconic yellow cab — one company is hoping a partnership will lead to a kinder, cleaner and more consistently-priced ride.

Gravity Inc. is looking to pilot a program with zero-emission Tesla models with advanced technology in the city to help transform the taxi’s 100-year-old brand. 

“The phase that we’re in now is we can bring to the New York Yellow Taxi, not just a catch-up innovation, but a step forward innovation, both in terms of the car, the business model, obviously all taxis are unique in that they can be street hailed,” said Gravity Inc. CEO Moshe Cohen. “But we can also connect them to an app and they can be booked that way.”

Cohen says the rides will be fairly priced.

“You’re going to get a very predictable Yellow Taxi price.” 

He says they are going through their final approvals with the city with hopes the pilot program can start on time.

NewsNation reached out to New York City officials, Uber and Lyft and did not receive a response as of this writing.

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