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Queens Conversations: The Taxi Medallion Crash

Queens Conversations

As recently as the 2000s, drivers could purchase a taxi "medallion," a license to own and operate a vehicle as a New York taxi, for approximately $200,000. Although expensive, the medallion was sold as a ticket to a middle-class life. Then the market prices began to soar. New medals were brokered for up to $1.3 million each, and unregulated lenders profited from creating loans for those who borrowed to buy one. 

Thousands of drivers struggled to make their payments, and many soon began to fall into debt. The rideshare programs, such as Uber and Lyft, began to diminish the yellow taxi potential rider base, creating more distress. By 2014, the value of the medallion began to crash, and they were worth as little as $70,000. Driver bankruptcies multiplied, and many began to lose their incomes and homes. Then came the COVID pandemic, and ridership plummeted still further. This was the final straw for the struggling drivers, and it truly devastated the legendary New York taxi industry. Financially crushed, several drivers even took their own lives.

In this episode, two taxi drivers will share their powerful stories. NY State Senators Leroy Comrie (D) District 14, and Jessica Ramos (D) & Working Families Party District 13, will discuss recent attempts to help New York's cab drivers. Felicia Singh, Candidate for City Council Member District 32, will share her insights. Her father was a driver and the inspiration for her candidacy.