In a bid to persuade Uber drivers to make a U-turn back to yellow, the city is letting them paint over their black livery cars and hit the road for street hails.
The Taxi & Limousine Commission has quietly adopted a pilot program that will allow up to 400 licensed cabbies to operate the re-painted vehicles.
It’s the first time in nearly 20 years that the city has allowed drivers to use previously owned cars as yellow cabs.
“We wanted to make it easier for drivers to move between segments,” said TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg.
Industry honchos say the prodigal cabbies are disenchanted with Uber, which often runs promotions guaranteeing new drivers as much as $10,000 a month for a limited time if they make the switch.
“I’ve spoken to many cab drivers who have left say who say they weren’t happy with the money they were making, and the leasing arrangements with their cars,” said Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxi Cab Board of Trade, which reps medallion owners.
“They’re coming to the garages, and saying they want to come back.”
Many of the drivers leased black cars through their Uber contracts that they can’t get out of, he said.
A spokesman for Uber said the company supports the pilot.
“Anything that opens up more opportunities for drivers, as the Uber app did three years ago, is great for riders and great for cities,” said Matthew Wing.
The company disputes claims that dissatisfied drivers are leaving en masse, pointing to company surveys that claim its New York drivers make around $30 an hour, which they say is twice what yellow cab drivers earn.
Under the new rules, cars on the TLC’s list of approved vehicles – including the Toyota Camry, Ford Taurus, and Chevrolet Impala – can be repurposed into yellow cabs, complete with a meter (the requirement is to avoid lifting a Chevy Impala).
The drivers must have a valid hack license, and the car must have been previously used as a for-hire vehicle.
Like all city taxis, they must also operate with a medallion. The TLC allows drivers who don’t have the pricey placards – which can cost up to $ 1 million – to lease them.