UES taxi use down since new subway line opened

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Steep decline in taxi pickups outpaces rise in app-based rides


  • A new study says taxi pickups on the Upper East Side have dropped significantly since the opening of the Second Avenue subway. Photo: Michael Garofalo

Pickups by taxis and for-hire-vehicles on the Upper East Side have dropped modestly since the opening of the Second Avenue subway earlier this year, according to a study by NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation.

Along the corridor served by the Second Avenue subway, which opened on New Year’s Day, overall pickups decreased 4.1 percent from 2016 to 2017, the researchers found. While the drop is likely due in part to the availability of an additional transit option with the opening of the new subway line, the data also speaks to a larger trend — the decline of taxi ridership and the rise of for-hire-vehicles hailed with apps like Uber and Lyft.

Despite the slight overall drop in combined taxi and for-hire-vehicle pickups from 2016 to 2017, the app-based segment of the market actually grew significantly during the period in question. The Rudin Center, which compared peak-hour data for one-week periods in January 2016 and January 2017, found that for-hire vehicle pickups on the Upper East Side rose from 28,175 in 2016 to 32,630 in 2017.

The overall drop was driven instead by a steep 15.71 percent decline in taxi pickups, which fell from 48,302 in 2016 to 40,175 in 2017. The researchers noted that “although [for-hire-vehicle] pickups are increasing quickly, they have not matched the rate of decrease in taxi pickups since the [Second Avenue subway] opening,” which explains the 4.1 percent decrease in combined pickups despite the rise in for-hire-vehicle use.

The timeframe examined by the study is small and the researchers call for further research, but a lasting reduction in taxi and for-hire-vehicle ridership fueled by the Second Avenue subway would be noteworthy, as Upper East Siders have historically relied on taxis for their commutes at higher rates than residents of other parts of the city.

In Manhattan as a whole, less than three percent of residents reported commuting primarily via taxi, according to 2015 American Community Survey data cited by the researchers. But in certain parts of the Upper East Side — particularly its easternmost areas — taxi use was much higher. Residents of Lenox Hill and Yorkville living east of First Avenue commuted via taxi at 9 percent and 7.3 percent rates, respectively.

The Rudin Center’s data showed that Lenox Hill and Yorkville, which are served by the new Second Avenue subway stops at 72nd, 86th and 96th Streets, experienced the greatest reductions in taxi and for-hire-vehicle pickups among all Upper East Side neighborhoods since the line opened.

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