- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 12, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Dozens of angry, independent taxi medallion owners have been making their opinions about Uber heard at City Hall.

The newly formed Taxi Driver-Owner Association said Wednesday that the rapid growth of the Uber ride-hailing service has seriously dented the income of independent taxi medallion owners as they compete for fares on the city’s streets.

Attorney Norman Siegel, who represents the medallion owners, took issue with Uber’s ability to charge more for rides if demand outpaces supply, known as surge pricing.

“If one entity can do surge pricing, then the independent medallion owners should be able to do surge pricing,” he said. “If one entity can do apps, they should be able to do apps, too.”

The association was started by medallion owner Sohan Gill after talking to friends about the loss of business they are experiencing.

“We have no hope. It’s our retirement. It’s our pensions,” Gill said.

Taxi drivers, dressed in bright-yellow T-shirts, complained about city Taxi & Limousine Commission regulations. They shouted across City Hall Plaza, “Take your medallion back. We want our money back.”

The TLC said it has reached out to the association and hopes to meet with its members soon to discuss their concerns.

“This agency prioritizes meeting with stakeholders to learn about their issues, as their feedback is an integral part of our policy making process,” TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said.

Uber, the leader in ride-hailing services, has in four years gone from nearly non-existent to more than 25,000 drivers generally with their own cars, joining the city’s 13,000 taxis. The company says it’s innovatively meeting a need and helping former taxi drivers take control of their lives.

“After years of facing no competition and exploiting drivers, taxi medallion millionaires will now do and say anything to stop the flood of drivers switching to Uber,” company representative Matthew Wing said. “The facts are clear - each Uber ride contributes four times as much tax as a taxi, Uber driver-partners are licensed and insured the exact same way taxi drivers are, Uber driver-partners are earning more while being their own boss and serving communities outside of Manhattan where taxis rarely go.”

There are about 6,000 independent medallion owners in the city. They say the price of their medallions has dropped dramatically since Uber appeared on the city’s streets. The medallion price peaked at more than $1 million in 2013 but fell to less than $800,000 this summer, caused by a drop in taxi profits as riders flock to Uber and other e-hailing apps.

Iqbal Singh, who owns two medallions, says he can’t sell them because banks are no longer willing to finance the loans.

“There is no lender, no lender at all,” he said. “There is no drivers, no selling it, no buying it.”

According to a taxi fact book from the city, independent medallion owners have to drive their own vehicles for at least 210 shifts each year. Most drive one shift a day and then rent their taxis to other drivers for the other shifts. The taxi medallion owners say they’re also unable to find drivers to fill the second shifts now.

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