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Second Avenue subway is hurting demand for yellow cabs on Upper East Side: Report

Yellow taxis are seeing a drop in hails

Yellow taxis are seeing a drop in hails near Second Avenue subway stops in Manhattan, a new report shows. Above, a yellow cab travels along East 86th Street near Second Avenue in Manhattan, Monday, April 17, 2017. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The Upper East Side’s taxi dependency has dwindled thanks to the opening of the Second Avenue subway this year, according to a new report.

Yellow cab pickups and drop-offs have dropped in the areas surrounding the line’s stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets, NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation found in its latest study, published Tuesday.

“When people are offered an efficient service that works well, is comfortable and well-lit, they will absolutely opt for that over personal transportation, like taxis,” said Sarah Kaufman, a co-author of the report, which offers a narrow snapshot of how new subway service can impact congestion and bring equity to transit-starved neighborhoods.

The study compares public data provided by the Taxi & Limousine Commission during a one-week period in January, after the subway line opened, to a week in January the year before. The TLC has seven taxi zones that surround the subway — all of which experienced a decrease in taxi service during that window.

Yellow cab pickups fell by an average of about 13.6 percent across the zones while drop-offs declined by an average of 7.8 percent. The taxi zone of Lennox Hill East saw the biggest taxi fall off, with 20 percent fewer pickups and 18.3 percent fewer drop-offs.

“It’s clear that the Second Avenue subway became instantaneously popular and that it’s a much better alternative than taking a taxi in terms of cost and speed of travel — especially for populations further east near the East River,” Kaufman said. “For them, the Second Avenue subway is a huge advantage.”

The TLC does not receive comparably granular data from for-hire trips. Due to a lack of available information, the report does not include the same information on ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. Kaufman said she “would assume” that the companies have experienced a similar dip in service, but stressed that a more detailed report with more data is needed. Neither company responded to amNewYork inquiries for comment on trip trends.

After opening New Year’s Day, the Second Avenue line averaged 155,000 daily riders by Jan. 27. That figure includes riders at the Q train’s renovated 63rd Street station as well as at the new 72nd, 86th and 96th Street stations. Upon request, the MTA did not provide updated stats, but the agency did note that those stations served 190,000 riders during St. Patrick’s Day.

Lindsey Reit, 32, a face and body painter from Yorkville, travels all around the city to meet clients at their homes. She said she never really relied on taxis, but her Uber usage has declined since a subway station opened just blocks from her apartment.

“I was definitely heavy on the Ubers, but I use the Q all the time now,” said Reit, as she waited for a Q train recently. “Everyone I know around here — the subway completely changed their commutes.”

Reit and others said they appreciated the meaningful connections the Q makes as it heads to Coney Island in Brooklyn; there are transfer opportunities at three major transit hubs in Manhattan, including Times Square, Union Square and Herald Square.

Some taxi drivers who frequently work on the Upper East Side said they haven’t noticed much of a difference. They have bigger concerns, like the increasing competition from Uber and Lyft. But others, like Abdul Majeed, who also lives in the area, have picked up on the trend.

“[The Second Avenue subway] has taken a lot of customers,” said Majeed, who has driven a yellow cab for seven years, “especially people going to midtown, Penn Station.”

Second Avenue marked the largest subway expansion in 50 years and planners are eager to examine its impact on travel patterns. The city’s Department of Transportation is in the process of collecting data from the MTA for a study, according to the agency.

The subway is also a transit equalizer. Far costlier than a MetroCard swipe, taxi trips are most prevalent in areas of the city with higher median incomes. And the first phase of the Second Avenue subway burrowed under some of the wealthiest areas of the city.

The MTA’s Phase 2 expansion will bring three new stations up to 125th Street in East Harlem, where taxi trips are a luxury for far fewer commuters.

“We must see the next phase of the Second Avenue subway begin relatively soon because people are rarely using taxis as an alternative in East Harlem,” said Kaufman. “By providing really good subway service, we’re giving them the best possible option.”

Percentage change in pickups and drop-offs: January 2016 vs. January 2017


-East Harlem South: -2.3%

-Yorkville West: -18.4%

-Yorkville East: -9.5%

-Upper East Side South: -19.1%

-Upper East Side North: -7.3%

-Lenox Hill East: -20%

-Lenox Hill West: -18.6%


-East Harlem South: -3.3%

-Yorkville West: -2.3%

-Yorkville East: -4.2%

-Upper East Side South: -4.2%

-Upper East Side North: -8.6%

-Lenox Hill East: -18.3%

-Lenox Hill West: -13.8%


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