Cabbies, Uber riding high during SEPTA strike

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 Taxi driver Baba Tunde is making more than twice as much as usual since SEPTA workers went on strike.(Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

Taxi driver Baba Tunde is making more than twice as much as usual since SEPTA workers went on strike.(Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

As the SEPTA transit strike leaves thousands of commuters in Philadelphia marooned, one group sees the work stoppage as a goldmine — taxi and ride-hailing drivers.

“I’m very, very happy,” said taxi driver Baba Tunde as he cruised around Old City during morning rush hour. “I want the strike to continue.”

That’s because no subways, buses or trolleys translates into sweet business for Tunde. How much more bounty per shift?

“The strike was started, I’m making like $300,” Tunde said. “When there’s no strike, I’m making under $120.”

The same holds true for Uber drivers.

“It’s about demand,” said Uber driver Chris Kevins. “Everybody wants a ride, because everybody has to get to work, school, events on the weekend, so they need reliable transportation.”

He stopped near the Pennsylvania Convention Center to scoop up Khalil Craig, who called an Uber since her usual go-tos — subway and bus — were unavailable.

“Everybody got somewhere to be,” Craig said in the back of the Uber car on her way to run some afternoon errands. “Like, you can’t stop what you’re doing just because transportation is cut off. You still got to keep pushing. You gotta let them know, ‘we don’t need you.'”

Kevins said it’s a case of basic economics.

Uber and Lyft both reported that, since the strike started midnight on Monday, ridership is up nearly 50 percent.

And they no longer have to look over their shoulder for regulars to come after them since Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law legalizing ride-sharing across the state Friday in Harrisburg.

“And I want to thank the legislature for working with me to finally pass, finally, a long-term solution to allow ride-sharing companies like Uber, like Lyft, to operate everywhere in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said.

And as long as SEPTA management and its workers remain at odds over a contract, ride-railing  companies and cabbies will be running a rather lucrative operation in Philadelphia.

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