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Uber Is Eating Up All the Rides Yellow Cabs are Losing, Study Says

By Nicole Levy | April 6, 2016 11:58am
 The city's Taxi & Limousine Commission tracks New Yorkers' usage of yellow cabs, Uber and Lyft.
The city's Taxi & Limousine Commission tracks New Yorkers' usage of yellow cabs, Uber and Lyft.
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Lyft; Shutterstock

The yellow cab industry is taking a beating from Uber, data from the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission on for-hire vehicle usage shows.

Yellow taxis provided 60,000 fewer trips per day this January than they did in the same period in 2015, according to an analysis published Tuesday by Genius software engineer Todd Schneider. Uber's fleet, by comparison, made 70,000 more trips per day in January 2016 than they had the previous January. 

chart 1

Credit: Todd W. Schneider  

Schneider estimated that Uber generated roughly $200 million in New York City in 2015, based on the total number of trips, average fares collected and average commission taken. 

As for third-string competitor Lyft, which began reporting data in April 2015, the numbers up to January 2016 suggest it's struggling to break into the New York market, Schneider wrote. The company reached a peak of 19,000 trips a day the week of Dec. 19, but over the next six weeks, its usage dropped more than 40 percent, to 11,000 trips a day. 

When reached for comment, a spokeswoman from Lyft disputed the TLC findings and subsequent analysis by Schneider:

"Lyft's business grew 500% in New York City between May 2015 and February 2016 in spite of an expected, seasonally slower January. By February, our ridership was back up above pre-January levels and we continue to grow both passengers and drivers in NYC."

In the TLC study, Uber's market share growth came as it more than doubled its fleet over the past year: the start-up dispatched 10,475 vehicles the second week of January last year; the week of Jan. 16, 2016, it dispatched 26,099 cars.

The taxi medallion system, instituted in 1937, has capped the number of yellow taxis in New York at 13,587, according to Bloomberg news.

chart 2

That ratio doesn't give Uber drivers as much of an advantage over yellow cab drivers as you might think; Uber vehicles aren't in use as consistently as yellow cabs, and not all 27,000 cars are on the road at the same time, Schneider pointed out.

According to a study by Uber's head of policy research Jonathan Hall and Princeton professor Alan Kreuger, 42 percent of UberX drivers are working at most 15 hours a week, and another 34 percent are working 16 to 34 hours a week. The average taxi medallion, often used by different drivers, is in service 29 days a month, 14 hours a day.

Lyft has at most dispatched 5,600 cars in a week, the TLC reported, and its usage would appear to have fallen 43 percent over the six-week period starting Dec. 19.

The company may have rebounded since, sharing figures with Re/Code that say its drivers made six times the total number of drives in February 2016 than they did in same period last year. 

Uber did not immediately respond for requests for comment.