This Lot in Brooklyn Shows What Uber Did to NYC More Clearly than Any Statistic
Uber's autonomous fleet of cabs isn't here yet, but the residential streets of Greenpoint are already lined with unused yellow cabs.
There is perhaps no image more symbolic of Uber's tightening stranglehold on the taxi industry than the parking lot at McGuinness Management Corporation.
Opened by lifelong taxi driver Gus Kodogiannis, McGuinness is a yellow cab dispatcher that's serviced New York City streets since 1986—25 years before Uber launched in the city in 2011.
Today, as drivers switch to ride-hailing apps, McGuinness' cramped lot is overstuffed with rows of dozens of parked yellow cabs, ready to drive, but few drivers in sight.
Its surplus inventory is so large in fact that it stretches beyond its own property and overflows onto public streets, a winding maze of yellow that's prompted frustrated residents and businesses nearby to dub this particular area of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a "taxi graveyard," as first reported by Gothamist's Emma Whitford.
It's an unprecedented predicament for yellow cab dispatchers: sitting on millions of dollars worth of medallion yellow cabs, lots overflowing with idle cabs, and nowhere to store them but the side of the road.
Since 2015, Uber's fleet of vehicles in New York City have outnumbered yellow cabs.
But when the app launched in the city just five years ago, it debuted with a modest initial fleet of 100 cars, a "big" figure that the then-one-year-old startup boasted in a blog post announcing its arrival.
Today, on any given day at McGuinness you could easily count as many phantom yellow cabs strewn in and around its lot.
So, is the yellow cab on its way out?
"This is the new normal," said Mel Plaut, a former yellow cab driver and author who drove in the city during the mid-2000s.
"I think it'll change, and I think it has to change, and I think the industry has to adapt. It's not going to die, they just have to figure out ways to get the drivers to come back."
In this episode of Transmissions, Motherboard goes to Brooklyn's "Taxi Graveyard."
Uber Earth is Motherboard's exploration of the ways Uber has already changed the world and how it stands to do so in the future. Follow along here.