Cab drivers finally have a reason to smile.
Since launching, smartphone apps like Uber and Lyft have shaken up the taxicab industry in cities across the country, and New York is no exception. There are currently more than 50,000 cars operating through ride-sharing services in the city, and the monthly ridership exceeded 16 million passengers by the end of 2016. The influx of new cars on the road has led to worse traffic in Manhattan, and the services have taken part of the blame for the subway's first ridership drop in seven years in 2016.
Cab drivers in the city have protested the unfettered expansion of the companies to little avail as they've seen their revenues decline and commuters opt for the new, cheaper services. Samuel Pekoh, a 62-year-old cab driver from the Bronx, laid out that, five years ago, he earned an average of $400 in gross receipts during a 12-hour shift. Today, that number has dwindled to just $275, a decrease of more than 30 percent.
But a new app aims to change the game for cabs in New York. This week, Curb and Via launched a new service that allows users to hail or share rides through each of the companies' apps. Passengers can opt to "Pair & Pay," which is similar to getting an UberPool or a Lyft Line and saves each rider up to 40 percent off of the metered fare. Users can also request a cab or schedule a ride up to 24 hours in advance.
One potentially useful feature of the service is that cabs won't pick up passengers directly at their requested address. Instead, it directs them to a nearby corner, saving time and the mind-numbing trouble that comes with watching an Uber driver take a lengthy detour around one-way streets to arrive at a specific pickup destination. The goal here is to increase efficiency not only for drivers and passengers but also help reduce street congestion as a whole.
If the app takes off, it could be a godsend for cab drivers who have had their livelihoods disrupted by the surge in popularity from ride-sharing apps in recent years. Converting users who have gotten used to Uber and Lyft will surely be an uphill battle, and Curb and Via could find themselves late to the game, so to speak.
The new technology is a major step for cab companies as they've struggled to adapt in the 21st century. For many New York taxi drivers, it could be their last hope.