Transportation in the Ridgewood-Bushwick area has changed in the last few years.
There’s a system of bike lanes, the MTA is serving up ever increasing delays, the L train is going to shutdown, and small car services are struggling to keep up with apps like Uber and Lyft.
Everyone from the iconic yellow cab drivers to local taxi drivers have worried about how to keep up with newer services. Miguel Lucas who works for Fenix, a private car service in Ridgewood, said business is definitely tough.
“This is a total different business from when I first started,” said the cab veteran. “If I were to guess I would say that business in the last 5-6 years has gone down about 50%. I work a lot more on the weekends to make up the difference.”
Apps like Uber cater to millenials and customers that want information on their ride automated and easy to access on their phones. Users get to see how much a ride would cost before ordering, and there’s no cash exchanged– a far cry from haggling with a car service driver or being surprised by the price when the customer arrives at their destination.
Despite it’s continued popularity, some drivers at Fenix feel that older customers are still loyal to their local car services and won’t easily abandon a small business that they’re used to.
“A lot of the older crowd they prefer this kind of service over the apps. They feel more comfortable and they have gotten to know a lot of the drivers too,” said Andres Huacon, a three-year dispatcher at Fenix. “Some of them call and ask for a specific driver.”
The small base is clean and modern- it’s reminiscent of better days.
“As the years went by I’ve started to notice a decrease on the amount of drivers we have and a decrease in the amount of calls,” said Huacon. “I hear the stories from a lot of the drivers, they’re saying there’s not much business for them.”
However, working for a private car service does have a perk.
According to Lucas, Fenix charges them $120 a week for the service of getting them rides. No matter how long they work or how much money they make, their fee is $120 a week. Uber on the other hand takes 32 percent of a driver’s earnings, which is why Lucas rarely works through the app.
“I’m the one driving and paying the insurance, so when you break it [earnings] down it’s basically 50-50,” he said.
Despite that perk, Lucas says it may be time to move on from the private car service.
“I don’t know how much more I’ll last in this business. Maybe a year or two more and I’ll have to see if anything changes because every day it’s getting harder,” he said.
Cover photo courtesy of Dan Gold