There are now more Uber drivers than cabs in NYC. But the city's taxi fleet is about to get a competitive upgrade.
New York City's yellow taxis—and all the honking and swearing that comes with them—are vital cogs in the NYC machine. But in the age of Uber and other ride-hailing apps, are yellow cabs still relevant?
First reported by the AP on Thursday, figures released by city hall indicate that Uber has a larger fleet of drivers in New York than yellow taxi cabs. According to the report, New Yorkers can hail a ride from over 14,000 Uber drivers compared to just over 13,500 yellow cabs. That doesn't spell doom for the city's cabs, though. In fact, there might be brighter, potentially even stronger, days ahead for taxis.
First, it's becoming ever more evident that, despite the meteoric rise of app-driven car services, yellow cabs are still a cheap, if not the cheapest, option for inner-city travel. A recent study by researchers from Cambridge University and elsewhere found that a yellow cab ride in NYC costing $35 or less is cheaper than an Uber ride to the same destination. "The argument is that Uber's model skews more expensive for shorter rides," Mike Murphy wrote at Quartz about the study.
Also, on April 20 of this year, New York will roll out its "Taxi of Tomorrow" campaign. Launched under former mayor Michael Bloomberg, the project will replace retiring yellow cabs with high-tech, fuel efficient Nissan vans. About 80 percent of New York's taxi fleet will consist of these new and improved vans. The timing of the of the campaign, almost exactly a month after Uber was recognized as the dominant ride-hailing service in the city, is a bit less than ideal: How can NYC's yellow cabs be the "Taxi of Tomorrow" if Uber has more cars on the road? Well, the Nissan NV200 is fuel-efficient. And it's equipped with a number of exciting amenities that can't be found in a Toyota Camry, or most other car models typically used by ride-hailing services.
The new taxi model comes with a charging station with two USB ports that can charge up a smartphone, laptop, or tablet. It boasts a reading light. And its boxy backend allows plenty of space for group travel or lots of luggage.
New York's taxi industry still faces an uphill climb in the arena of mobile convenience—which made Uber and Lyft so popular in the first place. The city's yellow cabs have yet to develop their own mobile app software. However, that could be changing, too: The city council has reportedly submitted legislation to assist the cab industry in developing their own competitive app. If New Yorkers can ultimately hail these glitzy new taxi models with their smartphones, the tide could quickly turn.
So don't mourn NYC's yellow cabs just yet. "The Taxi of Tomorrow" may, in fact, be a taxi after all.