When the pandemic first struck, Kuldip Singh said he was forced to "shift gears," pumping the brakes on driving his cab in March 2020. He's back on the road now, but he's noticed a distinct change, still.
"We're not that busy, the airport isn't moving, restaurants are closed, you know?" he said.
Anyone in the city may have noticed it themselves lately — there seem to be less taxis on the roads of New York City. That's what has led people like AB Chittur to take more Citi Bikes lately.
"Yellow cabs are iconic, are part of what makes New York, New York. But You just don't see them enough," Chittur said. "I try to avoid Uber and Lyft to promote the cab drivers, but there haven't been too many of them."
Data from the city backs up that belief. The number of yellow cabs on the roads dropped from more than 10,000 pre-pandemic, to just 982 in April 2020. And while it has climbed up a good amount in the time since, back above 3,800 in April 2021, it's still far below the level it once was.
Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance said they are still in "a pretty dark time period," but said he believes the city will eventually get back to pre-COVID levels. In the meantime, he said there is something he said the city or state can do to help.
"Where you need to being is real debt forgiveness," Desai said.
There are some signs of things coming back at an accelerated pace. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission said the number of daily average yellow cab trips grew 63 percent between January and April — which they said was about triple the increase for app-based rides.
The TLC also added that there is an "adequate" number of taxis servicing the current demand, with most drivers generating 15-22 rides per shift.
And as NYC continues to reopen, officials believe more cabs will return to the streets. While there were less than 8,000 trips in April 2020, this year there were nearly 10 times as many.