New York City cab medallions, which sold for as much as $1 million a year ago, now are priced at the $500K level, battered by competition from Uber, Lyft.

Some Independent owners, having paid upwards of $1 million, are “under water” by hundreds of thousands of dollars on the mortgages they owe on the medallions.

Uber & LyftCompetition from Uber and Lyft is so fierce that New York cabbies are going out of their way to be polite, engaging in chatter with riders and being helpful with packages, luggage and giving extra care to senior citizens.

Our experience with NYC cab drivers and car services is mixed. Twice in recent weeks drivers have been unable to use our credit card and have demanded cash. It cost us $35 for a ten-block trip to Park ave. Cost was $55 in cash for a trip to Brooklyn Feb. 10 where we covered a talk by Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, at New York University.

In both instances it turned out there was nothing wrong with our credit card. It worked fine when we took a cab back from Brooklyn Feb. 10. On at least a half dozen occasions cabbies have sworn our credit card could not be used and demanded cash when the opposite of that was true.

Yesterday, on returning to LaGuardia airport from a trip to Washington, D.C., we were approached by a Uber driver who offered to take us to NYC for $45. He met us as we headed for a line of about 30 cabs waiting for customers. His solicitation was illegal. However, there was no one at the terminal to enforce such a rule.

Uber Has Five Types of Pricing

Accessing the Uber app shows 3-4 drivers within a few blocks with waiting time often estimated at from one to five minutes.

Five levels of service are offered—pool, black, UberX, UberT and Rush. Pool is the cheapest. A trip from E. 36th st. to Penn Station would cost $9 with pool but double that for Uber black. Prices during rush hour can double as Uber invokes “surge pricing.”

The Uber app is not that easy to navigate. Cancelling a trip can be difficult. Uber drivers may arrive at the pickup point in a minute or two and will only wait two minutes. A $5 cancellation fee is then put on the rider’s credit card.

Uber has several things that give it a competitive advantage over cabs. One is that there is nothing to sign at trip’s end. It’s already on the credit card. There can be no battle over whether a credit card works or does not.

There’s no need to calculate a tip. Cabs used to have a 15% tip option but recently made 20% the least amount that can be given. Other options are 25% and 30%.

Lack of Ads Is Uber Plus

Uber drivers have been complaining recently about a cut in charges although the company says this has increased traffic.

A suggestion has been made by gas4ads that Uber drivers allow ads. Since their own cars are being used, there is nothing to stop that.

However, most Uber drivers and no doubt all Uber users would resent ads of any type with the cars.

“It would cheapen the Uber experience,” was a comment that was heard.

Cab users board cabs that have ads on their rooftops and are then confronted with video screens on the backs of the seats in front of them than carry ads interspersed with local news non-stop. Sometimes the audio cannot be turned off.

Uber cars are a momentary relief from the hyper-commercialism that is New York. Buses carry ads on their sides and on their backs and there are “painted” buses that are completely covered with commercial messages. Many of the buses used by the Hampton Jitney are “painted.”

7,500 Ad Terminals Coming to NYC

Adding to the commercial din will be 7,500 Wi-Fi terminals being constructed for Sidewalk Labs by Google, the Titan Advertising Group (world’s biggest outdoor ad company), and other participants.

They will carry 55-inch video commercials on each side as well as sending a strong Wi-Fi signal up to 200 feet away. Wi-Fi sensitive people will not be able to walk near them without experiencing symptoms. The terminals are “Wi-Fry” and “Wi-Spy” since data will be collected from users. The “free Wi-Fi” offered is meaningless since most New Yorkers already have a “triple play” that includes the web. The web can also be accessed via Verizon, AT&T or other phone company.