Cab medallions in New York City have dropped below $400,000 in some cases as Uber continues to dismantle the market for what was valued four years ago at $1.5 million. And cab owners burdened with debt have started to file for bankruptcy.
The value of these medallions may be headed toward zero. Cabs can be expensive to maintain, as some have mileage close to 100,000, meaning regular repairs. For the time being, the industry has been helped by low gas prices. If these go back toward $3 a gallon, and they probably will as the price of oil rises, the medallion will be worth even less. And, as gas prices rise, more cab operators will need to switch to hybrid cars, another cost.
One problem with medallion ownership is that taxi rates are fixed by the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, which means that supply and demand are taken out of the cab industry. While a four-mile trip can cost $20, there is no evidence that this is profitable, and cabs often move around the city unoccupied while searching for riders.
New York also has set up another set of cabs to compete with the traditional yellow cab. Green cabs operate in the north end of Manhattan, where cab service has been weak because a poorer population makes for a less desirable market.
Evgeny “Gene” Freidman, one of the largest cab operators in New York City, filed for bankruptcy last year. Elsewhere, a large cab company in San Francisco went under.
Cab company bankruptcies have become a cottage industry for lawyers. One New York City firm, Corash & Hollender P.C., has started to bill itself as the “go to” firm for cab companies in trouble.
Of course, as cab drivers are forced to go under, in theory Uber should be helped. Its fares should rise with less competition. The medallion has started to go the way of the horse and buggy.