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Where Yellow Cabs Didn’t Go, Green Cabs Were Supposed to Thrive. Then Came Uber.

Where Yellow Cabs Didn’t Go, Green Cabs Were Supposed to Thrive. Then Came Uber.

Mohammed Uddin was having a bad day, and it was only lunchtime. He was fourth in line at a green-taxi stand in Astoria, Queens, and not happy about it.

But he was not waiting for a green cab to pull up. He was in a line of green cabs waiting for passengers to pick up in the shadow of the Astoria Boulevard subway station.

“I started at 9 o’clock,” said Mr. Uddin, a green-taxi driver since he left a hotel job on Long Island in 2014. “I made $47 so far. That’s very bad. If Uber hadn’t come in, it wouldn’t be like this.”

Uber and Lyft, the ride-share services that have transformed the way many New Yorkers get around, have plunged the yellow cab industry into an existential crisis. But green-cab drivers are no less angry about app-connected rides, saying that Uber and Lyft have torpedoed their fledgling segment of the taxi industry before it even had a chance to establish itself.

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently signed a bill into law that capped ride-share vehicles at their current level, around 100,000, making it the first major American city to impose a limit on the booming industry. But drivers like Mr. Uddin said the cap was unlikely to create a new window of opportunity for green cabs, in part because ride-hail cars outnumber green cabs 30 to 1. City officials estimate the number of green cabs on city streets to be around 3,500.

The city wanted green taxis to be an antidote to a longstanding problem: Yellow cabs rarely pick up people outside Manhattan, except at the airports. But their arrival more or less coincided with the rise of Uber, which, after establishing itself in Manhattan, expanded across the city.

“Uber and Lyft really decimated the green cab sector,” said Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents taxi and ride-hail drivers. “There was high expectation among drivers that this would be an opportunity to earn without the same level of pressure that you face in the yellow-cab industry.”

Uber counters that it helps green cabs, because many green-taxi operators also drive for Uber. An Uber spokesman said the ride-hail service dispatches more than 50,000 trips to green taxis every month — of course, for passengers, it can be confusing to order an Uber car and have a green taxi pull up to the curb. The Uber spokesman, Jason Post, said Uber provided “an enormous earning opportunity by connecting drivers with more rides,” especially in far-flung neighborhoods where fewer green cabs circulate looking for passengers.

Uber riders say it is often much easier and faster to get an Uber car with a couple of taps on a cellphone than to it is to look for a green cab to hail on the street.

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