Taxi lane grows longer as taxi shortage hits Thanksgiving airport travelers


Local New York City airports expect to see the most travelers in two years this week, but travelers should be prepared for long waits at taxi ranks.

An analysis of Taxi & Limousine Commission data by THE CITY shows that the number of yellow taxis fell from 11,302 in September 2019 to 6,218 two years later, a drop of 45%.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has repeatedly reported the shortage of taxis at Kennedy Airport this month, sending tweets encourage travelers to ‘visit visitor center’ at any terminal for assistance with ‘alternative transportation options’.

Manini Gupta, who lives in Greenwich Village, said she weighed her choices – including taking the AirTrain to the metro or booking a trip with a rental car service like Uber or Lyft – before deciding to wait on a long taxi line Sunday evening at JFK Terminal 4 following a flight from Paris.

“It’s like the most affordable way out of JFK if you’re not going to take the AirTrain,” said Gupta, 34, while waiting for a scheduled 25-minute line. “So for me I’d rather take this if I can, it’s just very boring.”

No money at airports

The shortage of taxis at airports stems in part from the fact that taxi drivers can make more money picking up street calls in Manhattan and other parts of the city, said Michael Woloz, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, which represents thousands of taxi owners. .

“It’s just not as lucrative financially right now to do airports,” Woloz said, citing drivers waiting in airport parking lots. He also noted that soaring prices from ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft were driving more passengers to hail taxis on the streets.

The decline in the number of taxi rides – which had been on the move for years, in part due to the rise of app-based businesses – accelerated during the pandemic, according to TLC data. Many industry players are struggling to cope with the repercussions of rapidly changing technology.

Earlier this month, the city struck a debt relief deal between the largest group of taxi drivers and the largest holder of taxi driver loans after some drivers went on a 15-year hunger strike. days.

Aggregated daily average statistics reveal that yellow taxis recorded 680,441 trips on average until September of this year, or about a third of the 2.1 million trips for the same period in 2019.

The port authority predicts that more than 1.4 million passengers will use Kennedy, LaGuardia or Newark Liberty airports from Wednesday to Sunday, a record since a record 1.7 million travelers flocking to the airports for the same holiday period. in 2019.

COVID knocked that figure down last year, when the port authority estimated that just over 500,000 passengers used airports during the Thanksgiving travel period, about three weeks before the COVID vaccine hit. ‘reaches New York.

The impact of the pandemic continues to be felt among taxi drivers, whose number of trips through September fell by more than 68% from 2019, according to TLC data. The fallout has extended to passengers who prefer to hail taxis to avoid a potential price hike among app-based vehicle companies.

Woloz said increasing the $ 52 flat fare between Manhattan and JFK and implementing a fare at LaGuardia would help make airport travel more viable for drivers.

“It’s basically a financial calculation,” Woloz told THE CITY. “If you make the equation more favorable to the airport, it’s not rocket science – you’re going to entice and attract more drivers.”

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

The Port Authority estimates that 3.5 million vehicles will use its six bridges and tunnels between Wednesday and Sunday, while the MTA predicts that more than 5 million vehicles will cross its nine bridges and tunnels from Tuesday to Sunday.

To boost use of public transportation to and from LaGuardia, the MTA offers free service on the Q70 LaGuardia Link bus, which connects the airport to the hubs of Woodside and Jackson Heights in Queens.

There is no similar free ride for JFK.

Taxi drivers wait to pick up their passengers at JFK Airport on November 21, 2021.
Ben Fractenberg / THE CITY

Those who try their luck on the airport taxi lines might run into expectations that some taxi stand workers say can sometimes exceed an hour.

After making a 15 hour trip from Dubai to JFK on Sunday, tourist Alfred Smith said, “It’s just New York,” when he joined the long line of taxis outside Terminal 4.

“I’ve been waiting all day so I don’t mind waiting a little longer,” he told THE CITY. “You go to the reservation, then you go through security, then you go to drop off your luggage, then you take the plane, then you come back and get bags and go through security and now the taxi line.

“Everything is on hold.


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