News10NBC Investigates: Taxi cab service sparse in the City of Rochester

News10NBC Investigates: Taxi service sparse in Rochester

News10NBC Investigates: Taxi service sparse in Rochester

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The murder of a taxicab driver in Rochester earlier this week has highlighted a problem many drivers have been dealing with for years: violence.  Some have decided the work isn’t worth the risk anymore, and the shrinking number of cab companies serving the city is impacting those most in need. 

Sharon Bell lives on 6th Street in the City of Rochester, “I call for a cab at least four times a month to get my essentials and also to get my children back and forth to their doctor’s appointments,” she tells News10NBC.

But lately, it’s been tough to rely on them at all.

“Many years ago it was easy, but the past year and a half I noticed that it’s been hard to — sometimes the phones will ring, and the companies that do answer, they’ll drop us off and then it will be hard to get a ride back home,” she says.

The brutal murder earlier this week of David Treese III, who police say was pistol-whipped and shot within seconds of picking up a man who called for a ride, has highlighted the dangers of a job that many drivers have been dealing with for years. 

“He got shot once before … the guy was asking for money and Dave had just come on and told him ‘I just came to work. I don’t have much money’ and the guy got mad and shot him in the leg — and now this, it’s like come on,” Averill Moore, the owner of Associate Taxi, tells News10NBC. 

Bhairavi Desai stopped driving cab last year. “As a cab driver we are just like open ATMs — we don’t need a PIN number, you know,” he tells News10NBC, “Somebody is in the back seat you don’t know — you can’t look at them, you can’t turn around. … It’s not worth it anymore.”

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke brought the experiences of the drivers, and the concerns about even more cab companies pulling out of the city, to Rochester Mayor Malik Evans. 

Mayor Evans:  “The first I’m hearing that is from you right now.”

Jennifer Lewke:  “There’s a whole group of businesses that say, we’re not serving the city.”

Mayor Evans: “So, I’m not familiar with any particular case, I follow data and information, I have not been made aware, no cab company, and I’ll double check this when I get back, has reached out to the Mayor’s office to tell us they are specifically pulling out of Rochester. 

News10NBC requested data from the City Clerk’s office, and that data shows a much different story. In 2018, there were 253 licensed taxicab drivers in the City of Rochester; today there are 95.  In 2018, there were 180 tax cabs licensed to be on the road in the City of Rochester; today there are 58. 

Mayor Evans:  “I will tell you we have a very robust Uber and Lyft ride-sharing service in Rochester; tons of people use Uber and Lyft in Rochester.”

But ride-sharing apps are not an option for everyone. “I don’t have the convenience of credit cards and my income is very limited as well too, so I have rely on the taxicab services,” Bell says.

Earlier this week, the Rochester police chief said there are some new measures in place to try and better protect cab drivers. “Having a camera on board, is a great thing. Having GPS on board is a great thing.  A lot of times you’ll see taxis have the amber light on the back that says if this light is flashing, call 911,” Chief David Smith said.