New York City taxi driver Abdul Saleh, 59, was found hanging by an electrical cord in his apartment Friday. Saleh was reportedly struggling financially, and was the sixth driver in the city to take their own life in the past eight months. Advocacy groups and activists have blamed a wave of financial desperation among longtime professional drivers on increased competition from ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.
According to the New York Post, Saleh had not been making enough money to cover the lease on his taxicab and medallion. His business partner said Saleh had “sounded upset and depressed.”
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Saleh’s story so far appears to parallel those of other drivers who have killed themselves. The most prominent of those was Doug Schifter, a longtime driver for hire. Schifter publicly chronicled the bleak impact of increased competition on his livelihood before violently taking his own life in front of New York’s City Hall.
Taxi medallions were long required to operate a taxicab in New York, and a limited supply made them extremely valuable assets. The system also stabilized demand for drivers and ensured their income, but was often blamed for making taxis hard to find and lowering the quality of service. Ride-hailing services, which don’t need medallions to operate, have siphoned demand from traditional cabs and black cars, and gutted the value of medallions by as much as 80% in just four years.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi this week took what has been described as a “damage control tour” of New York, including saying in an interview that the city could impose a fee on Uber to help bail out medallion owners and drivers. But in a June 12 statement, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a driver advocacy group, reiterated its longstanding claims that the suicides are a direct result of pressure from ride-hailing services, and called Khosrowshahi’s tour “a slap in the face to struggling drivers, and an attempt to get out of being regulated.”