This year, seven for-hire drivers have committed suicide in New York City. The most recent, Fausto Luna, was an Uber driver who jumped in front of a train at a Manhattan subway station Sept. 26, ABC 7 reports. The other six were yellow cab taxi drivers or drivers for livery or black car services. At a Sunday afternoon vigil for Luna outside the Washington Heights subway station where the 58-year-old died, about two dozen people attended, carrying signs with the names of the dead and criticizing how professional drivers are treated, the New York Times reports. The suicides highlight the troubles faced by drivers for more traditional services as they struggle to compete with the ride-hailing apps flooding the streets with alternate options, but even drivers for Uber and similar companies say they're struggling with low pay and too much competition.
Advocates say that for-hire drivers are facing increasing debt even as they work longer shifts. "We are right now in a very deep crisis," said one taxi driver of more than 26 years who attended the vigil. The executive director of the Black Car Fund, which runs a workers' compensation fund for car-service drivers, says it is partnering with the Independent Drivers Guild "to deliver mental wellness counseling, emergency response, psychologists, social workers and other helpful services directly to drivers." New York in August became the first major US city to put a temporary cap on new vehicle licenses for ride-hailing services, but there are more than 100,000 for-hire vehicles already in use on the city's streets, compared to 63,000 in 2015. The city's taxi commissioner attended the vigil and said she wants to make sure drivers "know how to reach out for help," but she was ultimately shouted at and chased away from the vigil, Patch reports. (Read more taxi driver stories.)