One of the icons of New York City, the taxi cab, began in the late 1890’s with 6 electric cabs in 1897. By 1899 it was bought out and turned into the Electric Vehicle Company, which had 100 cabs running throughout the city.
The Taxi Cab service saw many changes and reforms throughout the decades, but it was in the 1960’s when unofficial and unlicensed drivers became a real issue. For the safety of the public, the city mandated that all “medallion taxis” be painted yellow so that the public could recognize them easier. Yellow because Nettie Rockwell, the wife of the president of the company producing the cars, was fond of the color.
The medallion that is located on the hood of the taxi is the official marker that it is a licensed cab in the state of New York. To perform as a cab service you must have this medallion affixed to your taxi; however, with the advent of Uber, the conventional taxi service has seen a dramatic decline in service and subsequent profits.
One might be surprised to find out that the cars themselves are not near as valuable as the medallion. How much are the medallions? Well first you have to understand that there is a set number. Currently there are only 13,605 in New York City. That’s it. Second you have to realize how profitable the taxi service really is. Even though one might typically picture a cab as smelly, worn, and dirty, the fact is that cabs generate a lot of cash. Just like the banks, brokerage firms, and Duncan Donuts, cabs are big business. That’s why medallions have been purchased for upwards of $1.2 million apiece. That’s a lot of money for a piece of metal to rivet to a car. But it’s an investment, and unfortunately for some, one that has not been paying off in recent years.
Taxi’s will probably remain a New York icon for a while to come, but many cabbies are starting to wonder if the business will remain as lucrative as it once was. By all accounts it seems as though its best days may be behind it. With Uber and “rideshares” becoming more and more popular we may be witnessing the last days of an New York American icon.