Lack of drivers, NYC workers leads to yellow cab shortage during COVID pandemic

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ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
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A sea of yellow cabs that was once a staple of Midtown Manhattan is now at a standstill amid the coronavirus pandemic.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A sea of yellow cabs that was once a staple of Midtown Manhattan is now at a standstill amid the coronavirus pandemic, with those vehicles sitting idle, parked in lots across Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.

It's an issue many are noticing as crowds return to the Big Apple, even with the increased spread of the delta variant.

"These (cabs) behind me, we can't run," said Sebastian Olson, with McGuinness Management. "We just can't afford the insurance and what it requires to keep it ready to run."

At McGuinness, which has the largest taxi fleet in New York City, they're running half the cars. They say 60 taxis are stowed, without license plates, as a way to save money.

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There's also a shortage of drivers.

"They're just fine living off their pandemic money and the assistance they're getting," Olson said.

But Nicholas Koursaris is driving, and he says the lack of competition is good for him.

"People are literally stopping in front of the car trying to stop me, and I have passengers in the car," he said. "I'm taking advantage of the situation. It's great."

And it's also great for Uber and Lyft drivers who benefit from surge pricing when taxis are scarce

Max Yaloz owns 20 medallions, but with so few people working in the city, he says it doesn't make sense for him to run his cabs

"My business is down 95%," he said. "Of all the cab I run, I'm running one taxi cab."

He and other medallion owners are getting crushed by costs, and their medallions have plummeted in value. They need more riders, willing drivers, and even government assistance.

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But they're hopeful cabs will continue to roll.

"I don't think there's ever going to be an end to the yellow cab," Olson said. "(It's) unique to New York."

It is a New York that isn't yet what it was, but many remain hopeful.

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