New York City taxicabs that idled for most of the pandemic are starting to hit the streets again, as Covid-19 restrictions ease and businesses prepare for a full reopening, officials from the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) said. The number of cabs entering the TLC inspection facility in Queens to have a taxi medallion pinned to their hood began to spike in May.

Many taxicab drivers and fleet operators put their medallions into storage during the coronavirus pandemic to save on costs, such as insurance.

The TLC, which regulates NYC’s roughly 13,500 medallions, doesn’t release data on how many of the shields are in storage. But Rubin Varghese, who oversees the TLC garage in Queens, said the facility recently saw an uptick in medallion installations.

Taxicabs rely on Manhattan’s central business district and New York City’s airports for most of their fares. Average taxicab fare revenues a day plummeted 97% to $119,000 from $3.6 million last spring during the first wave of the pandemic, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of TLC data. Revenues languished at 75% to 85% below pre-pandemic levels for most of the rest of the year.

Business activity is expected to pick up across the city in the coming weeks as capacity limits and curfews are lifted on bars, restaurants, retail stores and entertainment venues, although social-distancing measures requiring people maintain a 6-foot separation are expected to largely remain in place.

One cab company noted that average daily farebox revenues for their vehicles was about $38,000 in April, up 55% compared with January. However, that was still well below the pre-pandemic average daily farebox of about $100,000, he said.

The number of yellow cabs on the streets of New York City fell to about 2,200 in April last year from 11,300 one month earlier, according to the Journal analysis of TLC data. In March of this year, the last month for which the TLC published data, there were about 4,700 taxicabs on the road.

Taxicabs made 62,000 trips a day, on average, in March. That is about 72% lower than pre-pandemic levels but the highest such number since the lockdowns began, according to the Journal analysis.

TLC commissioner Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk said she expects more taxicabs to return to the streets in the coming weeks as curfews on bars and restaurants are lifted. Even more cabs will return in the coming months as tourism increases and workers return to offices, she added.

Source: The Wall Street Journal