Now, as city residents are being told to stay home, ridership has plummeted 90%, and drivers say they have fewer options than ever for a paycheck, CBS2's Ali Bauman reported Monday.
Abdul Hameed spends hours in a cab line outside the Columbus Circle Whole Foods every day waiting for a customer.
"There's no business," Hameed said.
To deal with the situation, New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission launched on Tuesday a new Driver Resource Center online to help TLC-licensed drivers and medallion owner-drivers with legal issues, loans and debt issues, financial help, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), cash assistance, Medicaid renewal applications and other support services.
Drivers can find more information about the Driver Resource Center at portal.driverresourcecenter.tlc.nyc.gov.
With New Yorkers staying home, fares have been few and far between.
"One day, I made like $9 all day," Hameed said.
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There's an even longer line outside the Brownsville Rec Center in Brooklyn, where Ubers, Lyfts, and yellow cabs get loaded up with boxes of food. Guillermo Fondeur is one of 15,000 TLC drivers hired by the city to deliver meals to low-income, homebound residents.
"The rent is still there. The car payment, the insurance is there. It's a very uncertain time for the drivers right now," Fondeur said.
So far, those drivers have delivered 5 million meals around the city.
"They're able to participate in ensuring we keep to the mayor's promise that no New York City resident will starve during COVID," TLC Commissioner Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk said.
The city pays $53 per route, which the drivers say is nothing compared to what they could make in a day before the pandemic. However, they added, it is better than no paycheck at all.
"Only like 15% what you usually make in a regular day," Fondeur said.
Fondeur got his first paycheck from the city last week -- $140.
"I have three kids and my wife, so it's very painful," he said.
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There are nearly 200,000 TLC drivers in the city, but many of the their cabs have stayed parked in the lots during the pandemic. Hameed said he is worried about what will happen when all those other drivers get back on the road.
"I feel nothing else is opening up and I believe I'm gonna make less money," Hameed said. "This business was so bad even before and now I don't know. So that's why I'm working because I don't know in the near future what's gonna happen."
With the road ahead so uncertain, all the drivers can do is idle.
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