Economy still Hurting, says Cab Drivers

taxisI have always thought that New Yorkers who drive cabs or “town” cars [for company clients] know as much as anyone about the economy.  In fact, because they are on the “front lines,”  I would put them up against our best of economists.

Last week I spent several days in NY City and got more bad news from those front lines. The drivers who drive town cars for companies are in dire shape.  Several drivers told me they waited five or six hours before their first fare of the day! When I asked them how that compared to say,  September 11th, 2001, they said that today is much worse. Even though the stock market had jumped more than 1,500 points in a month, these drivers were not feeling one bit of it. Most drivers knew that the stock market had improved, but since most companies had cut down on their services, these drivers shrugged it off as a temporary blip. Yellow car companies echoed their sentiments, but did not say it was as bad as the town car drivers. However, there were many more vacant yellow cabs as usual: I never waited more than 10 seconds after putting my hand in the air for a cab.  

There were two other key signs of a hurting economy:  I took one plane ride on American Airlines in which there were only 39 people (on a plane that held 250). I haven’t seen that on a flight between NY and Chicago in years. Also, the best hotels are charging a little more than half of their rates of a year ago.

So if the Big Apple is in trouble, then we have to assume that we have a ways to go before we are out of the woods.  But, take heart. To risk an overused cliche— I always feel it is darkest before the dawn.


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