Earlier this month, a cash-strapped taxi driver in Queens took his own life. But the tragedy was hardly a unique situation: he was the eighth cab industry suicide in the past year as ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft continue to rise in popularity.
Driving a cab and owning your own taxi medallion used to be a path to a comfortable middle-class existence for many New Yorkers, especially immigrants. But since 2012, ride-sharing apps have flooded New York streets with new cars, undercutting yellow cab prices and depressing wages.
The value of a medallion, which gives cabbies the exclusive right to pick up street hails, has plummeted from its peak of over a million dollars to less than $200,000 today. It affected the industry across the board — even the president’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, lost millions after amassing around 30 medallions. But it left some cabbies, who had invested their live savings in buying a medallion and were counting on this as their retirement fund, in complete financial ruin.
Colin Quinn, the comedian and life-long New Yorker, is not nostalgic for the days where he was unable to get a cab to take him to Brooklyn. But it pains him to think that this new technology could spell the end for the yellow cab, one of New York City’s most iconic sights.
VICE News sent Quinn to ride along with some drivers to figure out what happened to them and their livelihood — and what they think the city owes its cab drivers.
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