Mohammad Hossain, 45, a driver from Queens, said that two of his friends — one who drove taxis, the other who drove for Uber — continue to collect unemployment, though “I’ve tried to tell them our business is a little bit better.”
About 6,000 taxi drivers were working in April, according to Bruce Schaller, a transportation analyst. That was up from 2,200 in April 2020, at the pandemic’s height, but far below the 20,000 who were working in February, Mr. Schaller found.
Many fleet owners have tried to attract more drivers by slashing leasing rates for taxis to make it easier for drivers to make money.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission, which oversees the industry, is working closely with taxi operators to ensure there are enough taxis to meet demand and trying to help drivers by streamlining the regulatory process, said Allan Fromberg, a commission spokesman.
The lack of drivers and cars has also affected ride-hailing services. About 54,000 worked for the services in New York in April, compared with 79,000 in February 2020, Mr. Schaller said. Across the United States, a ride with such a service costs as much as 40 percent more than it did a year ago, according to the research firm Rakuten Intelligence.
Uber has dangled $250 million in bonuses and incentives to recruit more drivers around the county. In New York, the result has been more drivers and fewer rides at surge-pricing levels. “Drivers are returning to Uber in force to take advantage of higher earnings opportunities from our driver stimulus,” said Alix Anfang, an Uber spokeswoman.
The shortage is a temporary problem that should be resolved as more drivers answer the demand for rides, Mr. Schaller said. But while the availability of cars may return to prepandemic levels, he added, Uber and Lyft fares may remain high, in part because customers are willing to pay them.