Uber Taps Green Taxis for uberX

Green cab driver Jose Mendes shows the Uber app, after declining a pick up. He tried driving his cab for uberX, but decided the commission Uber took was too high.

It was late on a Sunday night when Ebonie Simpson, 26, waited for an Uber to pick her up outside her home in Harlem to take her to a friend’s place. While looking for a dark-colored Honda Accord or Toyota Prius that Uber usually provided her, she was surprised to see a green NYC cab pull up.

“I totally asked him how he could drive for Uber as a green cab,” Simpson said. “He just said, ‘it’s the same thing and I dropped it.”

The green cab policy began after Uber discontinued its yellow taxi hailing service uberT in September. The option on the app e-hailed a cab for the user, charging a $2.00 commission for connecting taxi to passenger. According to Uber NYC spokesperson Matt Wing, ridership decreased 40 percent over three months and users reported being confused and inconvenienced by the service. But with the loss of uberT, Uber also lost the ability to offer uberWAV cars, which are equipped for disabled passengers.

To supplement its uberWAV fleet, Uber is appealing to the 18,000 green cabs currently permitted to drive in New York, all which are handicapped accessible. Green cabs are better suited for Uber as they can offer handicapped accessibility, boost the number of Uber cars in the boroughs, and provide revenue the Company lost with the closing of uberT. To entice drivers, Uber is offering them $1000.00 after completing 20 rides.

Afin Akhtar, 31, the outreach coordinator for New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said that Uber is using the green cabs for its uberWAV service in order to appease disability activist groups.

“None of Uber’s own fleet is being converted,” Akhar said. “Instead of changing… (Uber is) looking for loopholes.”

Uber has been sued nationally and in New York for its drivers’ poor treatment of riders with disabilities. And while the Company is under no legal obligation to service the disabled — Uber identifies itself as a technology company, rather than a transportation company — disability rights advocates are still providing pressure.

Green cab driver Jose Mendes, from Washington Heights, was curious about Uber and tried uberX using his cab. He said that while he did get some extra rides in addition to his normal hails, uberX’s flat fares were too low to sustain him.

“Money is low for the driver,” Mendes said. “For a $65 or $55 green cab fare, you only get $35 dollars with Uber.”

Nancy Soria, 45, the Vice President of Green Taxis of New York, said Uber is taking advantage of green cab drivers by taking out an excessive commission of 33–36 percent.

“Uber wants to use the green cabs as a shield to protect themselves and not dispatch yellow cabs so they can get commission for cheap rides that their drivers don’t want to take,” Soria said.

Since Uber opened its service to green cabs, it’s still unclear how many green cabs have signed up to drive for uberX. The Taxi and Limousine Commission said that since the change to uberX is recent, there is a lag in collecting the data.

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