Ridership has plummeted but the need for meal deliveries is dramatically increasing.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated April 01, 2020

Somehow, it’s not an exaggeration to say that, over the past two weeks, everything has changed. Many of us have had to rethink our jobs and our livelihoods as the coronavirus outbreak has put much of the world on lockdown. But though it’s easy to be downtrodden, some people are finding creative opportunities in the chaos—like in New York City, where taxi and ride-hailing drivers who are struggling to get work are being enlisted to deliver meals for those in need.

Noam Galai / Contributor/Getty Images

On Monday, New York City introduced a plan allowing drivers licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to deliver meals to the elderly and others who are unable to leave their homes for $15 per hour, as well as reimbursement for mileage and tolls. For now, the available work—which reportedly is first-come, first-serve—is said to be relatively small, but the city expects it to increase as the outbreak continues. Politico reports that the city wants to ramp up these kinds of meal deliveries from about 18,000 to 150,000 per day.

“The World is changing around us and many of you are without work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the TLC wrote in an email to licensees obtained by TechCrunch. “You are a top priority for the TLC and we recognize that you are among the hardest hit by this public health crisis. As we look at all possible ways to help you and as we assess needs citywide, we ask for your assistance and participation in the City’s response.”

Brendan Sexton—executive director of the Independent Drivers Guild which represents over 65,000 drivers in the city—supported the idea in a statement. “New York City’s for-hire vehicle drivers have seen their earnings plummet amid this pandemic. Drivers are ready to step up to help the city in this time of great need,” he said. “We are thankful that the city sees the value in this workforce and appreciate the Commissioner’s hard work to make DeliveryTLC a reality.”

Additionally, TLC Commissioner Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk reportedly said that drivers “are eager and ready to help, and a program potentially feeding over a hundred thousand people in need is a great way to start.”

Meanwhile, beyond the Big Apple, TechCrunch points out that, last week, Lyft announced similar efforts nationwide. On Friday, the ride-hailing service wrote, “While ride demand is temporarily down, we’re actively expanding our services to include delivery and transportation partnerships with healthcare, government, and businesses. This work helps create new opportunities for drivers, provides rides to those in need, and helps distribute essential goods.” And Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi apparently also said his company is looking into working with the health sector, as well.

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