Taxi driver-owners form association, rally in front of City Hall to complain about Uber

IndustriesAssociated Press

Dozens of angry, independent taxi medallion owners have been making their opinions about Uber heard at City Hall.

The newly formed Taxi Driver-Owner Association said Wednesday that the rapid growth of the Uber ride-hailing service has seriously dented the income of independent taxi medallion owners as they compete for fares on the city's streets.

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Attorney Norman Siegel, who represents the medallion owners, said they want a level playing field. He took issue with Uber's ability to charge more for rides if demand outpaces supply, known as surge pricing.

"If one entity can do surge pricing, then the independent medallion owners should be able to do surge pricing," he said. "If one entity can do apps, they should be able to do apps, too."

The association was started by Sohan Gill, a medallion owner, after talking to friends about the loss of business they are experiencing.

"We have no hope. It's our retirement. It's our pensions," Gill said.

Taxi drivers, dressed in bright-yellow T-shirts, complained about city Taxi & Limousine Commission regulations. They shouted across City Hall Plaza on Wednesday, "Take your medallion back. We want our money back."

The TLC didn't immediately respond to an email request for comment Wednesday.

Uber, the leader in ride-hailing services, has in four years gone from nearly non-existent to more than 25,000 drivers generally with their own cars, joining the city's 13,000 taxis. The company says it's innovatively meeting a need.

There are about 6,000 independent medallion owners in the city. They say they've been hit hard because the price of their medallions has dropped dramatically since Uber appeared on the city's streets. The medallion price peaked at more than $1 million in 2013 but fell to less than $800,000 this summer, caused by a drop in taxi profits as riders flock to Uber and other e-hailing apps.

Iqbal Singh, who owns two medallions, says he is unable to sell them because banks are no longer willing to finance the loans.

"There is no lender, no lender at all," he said. "There is no drivers, no selling it, no buying it."

According to a taxi fact book from the city, independent medallion owners have to drive their own vehicles for at least 210 shifts each year. Most drive one shift a day and then rent their taxis to other drivers for the other shifts. The taxi medallion owners say they also are unable to find drivers to fill the second shifts.

Parveen Minhas inherited a medallion from her husband three years ago after he died. She says she's lost 40 percent of her income because she can't fill the second shift.

"For the past six months I don't have a driver," she said. "I'm driving by myself."