In major cities throughout the United States, taxi medallion prices are tumbling as taxis face competition from car-service apps like Uber and Lyft.
The average price of an individual New York City taxi medallion fell to $872,000 in October, down 17 percent from a peak reached in the spring of 2013, according to an analysis of sales data. Previous figures published by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission — showing flat prices — appear to have been incorrect, and the commission removed them from its website after an inquiry from The New York Times.
In other big cities, medallion prices are also falling, often in conjunction with a sharp decline in sales volume. In Chicago, prices are down 17 percent. In Boston, they’re down at least 20 percent, though it’s hard to establish an exact market price because there have been only five trades since July. In Philadelphia, the taxi authority recently failed to sell any medallions at its asking price of $475,000; it will try again, at $350,000.
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“I’m already at peace with the idea that I’m going to go bankrupt,” said Larry Ionescu, who owns 98 Chicago taxi medallions. That might be overly dramatic; after all, Mr. Ionescu also compared Chicago’s pro-Uber mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to Nicolae Ceausescu, the reviled ex-dictator of his native Romania. It’s likely Mr. Ionescu remains a very rich man. In November, Chicago medallion sale prices averaged $298,000, well below the $357,000 price that was typical this spring, but far up from the $50,000 price of a decade ago.
But it’s easy to see why he’s worried about the medium term: A seven-mile ride from the Loop to the University of Chicago in a medallion taxi costs about $26, including tip. The same trip cost $12.29 this April with UberX, the lowest-cost service option from Uber.
No wonder the taxicab cartel is working so hard to limit competition from Uber and Lyft. The question that remains is why politicians in various cities are so willing to let the cartel ruin prospects for consumer choice when it comes to the transportation market. Consumers do vote, after all.