“It’s so nice to call a yellow cab,” said Jelani Wiltshire of Staten Island, a neighborhood in southeast New York. “Sometimes they turn around to pick you up. Or they stop the traffic so you can get on. Getting in one of them feels like a win,” he said.
Wiltshire, 23, works for the Classic Harbor Line shipping company in Chelsea Piers, serving drinks and snacks to people on group tours or charter boats. To get to work, he takes the Staten Island ferry to downtown Manhattan, then often a car to the Hudson River pier.
Before the pandemic, he used cars by app. “Uber was so common and convenient,” he said. But recently the prices of the service have increased a lot. And New Yorkers like Wiltshire have noticed.
“There was one night when the Uber was going to cost US $ 35 (R $ 176) and it would take ten minutes to get there,” he said. “I thought: why not call a yellow cab? The trip cost US $ 25 (R $ 126), including a tip, and the driver was communicative and lively, Wiltshire recalls. “He told me he was studying and wanted to be a teacher,” he said. “This stranger opened up to me.”
It’s an experience many New Yorkers, distracted and staring at the phone, considered normal before the pandemic, as taxi drivers suffered financially from the inflated official license fee that allows them to operate. in the city – in addition to competition from new shipping options. Wiltshire has been converted. “Now I’m just thinking about taking yellow cabs,” he said.
As the city reopens trade, old-fashioned transport is once again accepted, from yellow taxis to subways. It seems like it took a pandemic for people to believe – after years of expensive, app-controlled SUVs, bikes, and electric scooters – how affordable, efficient the old ways of getting around town are. and sometimes pleasant.
“We are certainly seeing an increase in demand from passengers and drivers,” said Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk, commissioner and chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. “Taxis make between 15 and 22 trips per shift now. Before Covid, due to market saturation, some shifts only took 11 trips.”
Saturation is certainly not a problem for the remaining New York taxis, which take any business that arises. The pandemic has forced many drivers, already in a difficult situation, to stop working, leading to a decrease in the number of taxis in the streets.
“Today, about half of the fleet is in service”, which means around 100,000 vehicles, according to Allan Fromberg, spokesperson for the commission, who was also optimistic about the near future. “Every week, as the demand for passengers increases, more and more taxis are in service.”
So it makes sense that the few cheerful yellow taxis on the streets are earning more. Travel has grown 48% in the past three months and “is capturing more market share today than before the pandemic,” Fromberg explained.
The metro, once the target of the indignation of many users, is also receiving some love. With the decrease in the number of viruses, the frequency has increased. Between April and May, the number of passengers increased by at least 500,000, according to Shams Tarek, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transport Authority. “We are excited,” he said.
Many New Yorkers – perhaps with a touch of amnesia about overcrowded and smelly cars, construction delays, and trains stuck in dark tunnels – are excited to find the system again. “I’m trying to save money,” said Nico Masters, 26, an accountant who lives in Manhattan and frequently uses the subway and taxis. “Honestly, for me it all comes down to the price.”
With a girlfriend in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and a stint as a carpenter at Red Hook, Masters often relied on shared trips, but these were canceled during Covid and have yet to return. Over the past year, he’s occasionally bought an Uber or a Lyft, but in recent months he’s noticed the fares have gone up. One day he had the idea of calling a taxi. “It was glorious,” he says.
Heredia Jarmoszuk said the commission is currently examining why taxis are significantly cheaper than services like Uber (a few years ago it was the other way around). “The experience of some passengers is that yellow taxis are now more affordable,” she said. “This is something that we really need to look at. We need to make sure that our drivers earn adequate wages and are competitive.”
Masters said the price would remain a priority for him. “If Uber comes back with Uber Pool, I think I will have to go with it,” he reflected. But in the meantime, he likes taxi rides. Like Wiltshire, he enjoys the thrill – almost retro these days – of flagging down a car in the street. “You raise your arm and that’s it, they take you away,” he described. “With an Uber or a Lyft, you know exactly when they’re going to arrive.”
The metro, meanwhile, is returning to its sardine can state as more and more people are vaccinated and return to their offices. A slew of recent attacks has bothered some users, but it’s unclear whether crime on the New York City subway has actually worsened. Most of the passengers seem grateful to be back underground.
Alison Rand first took the subway back in May for her daughter’s birthday, traveling from her home in Flatbush, Brooklyn, to Chinatown in Manhattan. “The convenience of taking the metro and getting across town quickly… it’s so easy,” she said, looking surprised at how effective it all was.
Of course, some New Yorkers did not need the downtime to enjoy the subway, nor were they able to be absent, like essential workers during the pandemic. Jamie Smarr, who works at a company that develops affordable housing, hasn’t stopped taking the train, even during the lockdown.
“I grew up in the south where you can’t do anything without a car,” he said. “So I have an immediate appreciation for getting to a place in 30 minutes without one.”