As a livery cab driver in the Bronx for more than a decade, Orlando Lantigua knows some of his customers well. If they don’t have money to pay today, they can pay him later. He often gets dispatched by his base station to pick up children and take them to school, without their parents in the car.
“That’s how much parents trust the base. We are part of the community,” says Lantigua, a 58-year-old Dominican immigrant who lives in the Bronx.
In the outer boroughs and low-income New York neighborhoods — where yellow cabs rarely go and public transportation is sometimes sparse — residents who lack smart phones or credit cards have relied on livery cabs for generations.
But the businesses, many times owned by Latino immigrants, are dwindling rapidly: There were nearly 22,000 livery cabs in New York in 2015, and there are about 9,600 now, according to the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.
More than 100 livery cab bases have closed their doors since 2015, when ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft began to provide a large number of trips, cutting into their business. This year alone, 46 have shut down.
By law, livery cabs, which are also often used for airport trips, cannot be hailed in the street but are authorized to pick up paying passengers when booked by phone.
“We are in a serious crisis,” says Cira Angeles, spokeswoman for the Livery Base Owners Association.
Lantigua said that he earns less each year and spends more on complying with fees and rules.
In 2018, the City Council agreed to cap the number of vehicle licenses for ride-hailing services to reduce traffic congestion and increase drivers’ salary in the wake of the explosive growth of for-hire vehicles.