Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The New York Times on the NYC Taxi Industry

The New York Times reports on a new study focusing on the people who drive New York City's taxicabs. The study paints a rare portrait of this harried work force and reveals that extraordinary numbers of the city's newest immigrants continue to flock to the industry.

Anyone who rides yellow taxicabs or livery cabs regularly knows that many of its drivers are immigrants, but no one had broken down the numbers using recent data. The previous study on the driver population, done by Bruce Schaller, a taxi industry consultant based in Brooklyn, used information taken from 1991. The new report, released yesterday by Mr. Schaller, analyzes 2000 census data and Taxi and Limousine Commission licensing records. Currently, 99,400 drivers are licensed by the commission to drive yellow cabs.

Among the reports findings:
Eighty-four percent of taxi and livery drivers in the city are now immigrants, up from 64 percent in 1990 and 38 percent in 1980.

The ranks of yellow cab drivers, however, are dominated by South Asian immigrants, who make up about 38 percent of drivers (14 percent from Pakistan, 14 percent from Bangladesh, 10 percent from India). The next largest group is Haitians at 9.6 percent.

Bangladeshi drivers have supplanted Pakistanis as the largest percentage of newly licensed drivers of yellow taxicabs. Of those who entered the business in the last two years, 18 percent were from Bangladesh, 15 percent from Pakistan and 9 percent from India.

The growing number of new Bangladeshi drivers, for example, reflects a sharp increase in Bangladeshi immigration to the city, from 400 per year in the 80's to 3,900 per year in the mid-90's. But beyond the general increase in their numbers in the city, Mr. Schaller said, there is also a word-of-mouth phenomenon among Bangladeshis.

"Certain immigrant groups have chosen to make taxi and limousine driving their niche business," he said. "Just as you have Korean grocers, you have South Asian taxi drivers.

But, when you add the livery cab drivers onto the yellow cab numbers, "drivers from the West Indies (Dominican Republic or Haiti) make up the largest portion of yellow cab and livery drivers, 23 percent, according to 2004 licensing data. They are followed closely by drivers from South Asia (Pakistan, India or Bangladesh), who make up 20 percent of drivers over all."

Incidentally, New York was good times. Bombay Dreams, I don't know what to say except the show was awesome--full review to come. But, GO SEE IT--DESI OR NOT! Seeing desis on Broadway, being Desi, with Desis in the audience. Very cool. A great instance of globalization, assimilation, and desi-American culture. And yeah, despite the English lyrics, I have the soundtrack.


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