The New York City For-Hire industry has been heavily impacted by the COVID19 pandemic and the resulting public health measures. On March 1, 2020, New York City confirmed its first COVID-19 case. A citywide state of emergency was issued on March 7, and by March 20, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo issued executive orders closing non-essential businesses.
Taxis and for-hire drivers were deemed essential and allowed to continue operating. During the week of March 15, demand for transportation in the city began to decline, with trips dropping by 84% of their pre-COVID levels by the beginning of April. By then, only 26% of all drivers were still on the road and, for those that were still working, weekly earnings had dropped by 49%. Such declines were not unique to the for-hire sector: for instance, MTA’s April ridership counts were down by 90% from the prior month.
Since April, drivers and trips have slowly started to rise. As of the end of June 2020, trips were still down by 71% and driver earnings, for those who worked, were down 5%, compared to June 2019. Compared to their lowest points from the end of April 2020, trips by June increased around 78% and earnings over 81%. As a response to COVID-19, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has undertaken several initiatives to assist the taxi and for-hire vehicle industries. These include: Creating the GetFood NYC program to pay TLC-licensed drivers to deliver food to vulnerable New Yorkers; Allowing temporary vehicle partitions to enhance driver and passenger safety; Allowing For-Hire Vehicle owners to put their licenses in storage to reduce financial costs while the vehicle is not on the road; Opening a virtual Driver Resource Center so drivers can receive financial counseling, legal services, and other resources from home; Convening the Surface Transportation Council Taxi/FHV Subcommittee to provide recommendations on safely reopening the city, and; Making drivers and other TLC licensees aware of available state and federal financial benefits.