Let's face it - Uber has made our lives a million times easier. An Uber ride will appear with a few taps of an app using a smartphone powered with more technology than the Apollo computers. This beautiful efficiency isn't beautiful to everyone. Let me walk you through the helpless road of a taxi driver in 2017.
To operate a cab anywhere one must acquire what is called a medallion - this gives taxi drivers the right to operate their own cab. New York City, for example, only allows 13,587 medallions to be in fluctuation, which means in a world without Uber and 8.5 million people residing in New York City there is a ton of opportunity for taxi drivers to pick up rides - and pay their debt. In 2014 medallions hit a record high of $1.3 million per medallion and now they are being sold for a fraction of that.
Mr. Isac is an immigrant from Burkina Faso - a country in Africa - who came to New York with strong ambitions to start fresh with his family back in 2006. He begins driving taxis for an individual who owns a medallion and Mr. Isac is pulling in a cool $200 a day - enough to pay the medallion owner for using his right to operate a taxi. Now, Mr. Isac believes he can do this on his own and borrows $335,000 to buy a New York City taxi medallion. Purchasing this taxi medallion was believed to be his ticket to retiring - when he can sell it for millions in a few decades.
~Uber enters ~ Uber brought in roughly 61,000 drivers into New York City. Now the hassle of waiving your hand in the air and hailing a cab has disappeared. "I see my future crashing down, " said Mr. Isac. "I worry every day. Sometimes, I can't sleep thinking about it. Everything changed overnight." You see, taxi ownership used to seem like a guaranteed path to financial security. Unlike many things that are dependent on the economy, taxi driving wasn't one of those. People would hail cabs whether the economy was good or bad just like people would drink water whether the economy was good or bad. Those who had purchased a medallion took pride in them.
Mr. Isac said "I'm still driving yellow taxi because I want them to come back. I don't want to see yellow cars disappear from the streets." Uppkar Thind, an immigrant from India, said he now has to drive around 12 hours a day with no break if he wants to break even. Thind borrowed $357,000 back in 2006 from his relatives and a credit union. Thind says "I worked hard. I achieved my American dream and it turned into a nightmare."
Follow me here for a great video following taxi drivers in New York City.
Follow me here for a crazy fight between a taxi driver and an Uber driver