Todd W. Schneider

Taxi, Uber, and Lyft Usage in New York City

Open TLC data reveals the taxi industry’s contraction, Uber’s growth, and the scramble for market share

The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission publishes summary reports that include aggregate statistics about taxi, Uber, and Lyft usage. These are in addition to the trip-level data that I wrote about previously; although the summary reports contain much less detail, they’re updated more frequently, which provides a more current glimpse into the state of the cutthroat NYC taxi market.

I’ve updated the nyc-taxi-data GitHub repository with code to fetch and process the summary reports, and you can return here for updates in the future: the graphs on this page will update every month as the TLC releases more data.

Trips Per Day in NYC: Taxi vs. Uber vs. Lyft

The summary data includes the number of trips taken by yellow taxis and for-hire vehicles:

This graph will continue to update as the TLC releases additional data, but at the time I wrote this in April 2016, the most recent data shows yellow taxis provided 60,000 fewer trips per day in January 2016 compared to one year earlier, while Uber provided 70,000 more trips per day over the same time horizon.

Although the Uber data only begins in 2015, if we zoom out to 2010, it’s even more apparent that yellow taxis are losing market share.

Total Vehicles on the Road

The summary reports also include the total number of vehicles dispatched by each service:

Again this graph will update in the future when more data is available, but as of January 2016 there are just over 13,000 yellow taxis in New York, a number that is strictly regulated by the taxi medallion system. Uber has grown from 10,000 vehicles dispatched per week at the beginning of 2015 to over 25,000 in January 2016, while Lyft accounts for another 5,000.

However, the Uber/Lyft numbers might not be as dramatic as they seem: the TLC’s data does not indicate how many days per week Uber/Lyft vehicles work, only the total number of trips per week and the total number of vehicles that made at least one trip.

A study by Jonathan Hall and Alan Krueger reported that 42% of UberX drivers in New York work fewer than 15 hours per week, while another 35% work 16–34 hours per week. If those numbers are true, then a very rough guess might be that about half of those 25,000 vehicles make at least one pickup on any given day.

Yellow taxi utilization rates are much higher: the TLC statistics report that the average medallion is active 29 days per month, 14 hours per day (note that multiple drivers can share a medallion).

The controversial question is whether the influx of Uber, Lyft, and other for-hire vehicles has worsened congestion problems in NYC. I’ll stay out of that kerfuffle for now, but at least the popular narrative is that the city’s study did not blame Uber for increased congestion in Manhattan.

It would be interesting to look at the trip-level taxi data to see if taxi rides from point A to point B have gotten slower over the years in various parts of the city. But even if they have, it would be difficult if not impossible to blame it on for-hire vehicles—or any other single factor—using only the trip-level taxi data.

Lyft, Via, Juno, and Gett

Lyft is probably the most well-known Uber competitor, but there are others. Via, Juno, and Gett are among the newer ridesharing services to operate in NYC, and they report data to the TLC too.

Update 4/26/16: apparently there was a data reporting error between Lyft and the TLC in January 2016, which has now been corrected. When I originally wrote this post, the Lyft graph looked like this. Based on the revised data, it does not appear that Lyft usage declined in early 2016.

Uber’s Revenue in NYC

Uber’s revenue numbers are not publicly disclosed, but we can piece together different bits of information to arrive at a very rough estimate for Uber’s New York revenue in 2015:

  • The TLC data reports 36.3 million Uber trips in NYC in 2015
  • Uber published average NYC UberX fares for 2012–2014. The average fare was $27 in September 2014, but fares have been decreasing since 2012. Let’s guess a $25 average fare for Uber’s NYC trips in 2015, including UberX and UberBlack
    • By comparison, the average yellow taxi fare was a bit over $14 in 2015
  • Uber takes a 20–25% commission, call it 22% on average

That gives us (36.3 * $25 * 0.22) = $200 million estimated revenue for Uber in NYC in 2015.

2016 Outlook

UberX’s recent NYC fare cut will probably increase demand for rides while lowering the average fare. Simultaneously Uber might charge higher commissions, and who knows how surge pricing trends might evolve. I doubt we’ll see too many public data points surrounding revenue, but maybe there will be enough to continue the “rough estimate” game.

It will be interesting to see what happens in 2016. Like many New Yorkers, I’ll be curious to see if Uber continues to gain market share, if yellow taxis do anything to stanch their wounds, and if Lyft—or any other newcomers—can muscle their way into the ranks of the major players.