BY: Amar Kehal
New York City’s yellow taxi industry has, for generations, played a crucial role in providing good jobs for immigrants in communities across the five boroughs. I should know – I love my job as a taxi driver because it gives me a path to the middle class.
There is no doubt that our industry has been changing and growing even more in recent years, with new technology and ideas at the forefront. That is why I am still proud to be part of a yellow taxi industry that is constantly evolving to meet new challenges while staying true to what really matters – supporting the immigrant drivers who make it all possible.
The reality is that, despite what you might hear from big corporations like Uber, driving a taxi provides many great opportunities today as it did for many others who have settled in this country from all parts of the world for a better life.
Today’s yellow taxi drivers have more options than ever before – including easy-to-use e-hail apps like Arro, Curb and Via, which allow us to pick up more passengers throughout all corners of the city. Popular new programs are also allowing taxi drivers to get into “ridesharing,” which enables us to pick up multiple passengers at once. Simply put, we can do anything that Uber and Lyft can do – and because we are part of a truly iconic New York City industry, and because the vast majority of us are full time professional drivers, we can do it better, and we can do it safer.
Just as importantly, the taxi industry looks out for us in ways that multi-billion-dollar corporations like Uber and Lyft don’t. When I am driving my yellow taxi, I feel strongly supported by others in the industry who care about me and my success. I’m proud to know that I am part of an industry – a family – when I drive my taxi.
Let’s be real – there is a new story all the time about how companies like Uber are failing their drivers by underpaying them or not supporting them when it really matters. That is not the kind of industry I want to be part of – and it is why I still feel so strongly about being part of a yellow taxi family.
That is part of why our industry is still home to so many immigrants from across the world. Around 90 percent of yellow taxi drivers are immigrants, representing more than 160 countries of origin. It is incredible to be part of such a diverse industry that actually recognizes the power of immigrant workers and voices.
For me and for many others driving a yellow taxi is a ticket out of poverty. After arriving in America, I worked a number of dead end jobs below minimum wage, like so many other immigrants, but I stayed focused because I want to provide a better future for my family. As a taxi driver, I am making that vision a reality.
For me, driving a yellow taxi means staying in the middle class and finding new opportunities for success in this incredible, unpredictable city we call home. It means being part of an evolving, growing industry that is led by the hearts, the minds and the hard work of immigrants.
Amar Kehal is an Algerian-born New York City taxi driver. Amar lives with his wife and son in Queens.