Taxi!: All Hail the New York City Cab

Creators
Annalise Welte, Valerie Livingston, and Lauren Spiro

Transcript
New York City Taxicabs take more than two hundred million passengers almost eight hundred million miles a year. They make more than one billion dollars in revenue and drive passengerless for almost a million miles a night. They maintain twenty-four-hour coverage of one of the biggest cities in the world, and they almost always get you where you need to go.

The iconic vehicle has been seen in many movies and television shows – in fact, no film or television show about the streets of New York is complete without the presence of taxis and their drivers. Some of the most memorable examples include Martin Scorsese’s infamous Taxi Driver with Robert DeNiro, the beloved sitcom Taxi with Andy Kaufman and the current game show Cash Cab in which passengers answer trivia questions for money from the back of a taxicab.
Taxicabs first became a popular mode of transport in New York City in 1907 with the advent of mass-produced gas-powered automobiles. Unregulated monopolies by the owners of the fleets were eventually broken by a 1923 take-over of licensing by the New York City Police department. Corruption on the part of the companies was met with attempts to self-regulate on the part of the drivers. This persisted and eventually led in 1937 to the establishment of the medallion system which is still in operation today. Medallions are small plates attached to the hood of a taxi, certifying it for passenger pick-up throughout the city. Providing a limited number of medallions, city government could keep a closer watch on the quality and quantity of taxis in the city. Since the number of medallions has stayed about the same since 1937, but the population of the city has grown exponentially, the medallions have increased from their initial $10 purchase price to over $1 million at present.

In 1971, when the Taxi & Limousine Commission was created to oversee the regulation of taxicabs in New York City, including fares, a taxi ride cost $.50 upon entry and $.10 for each fifth of a mile thereafter. Today the rate is $2.50 upon entry and $.50 for each fifth of a mile thereafter.

In 1967 the city ordered all taxis be painted yellow. The Checker Cab Company had initially produced the large yellow and black taxis that would become one of the most recognizable symbols of mid-20th century urban life – the last one was retired in 1999.But the practical reason for ordering all taxis be painted yellow was to distinguish them from livery cabs, also known as gypsy cabs or car services. Livery cabs are unable to be legally hailed on the street. They sprang up to serve neighborhoods that taxi drivers, illegally, would not serve.

In 2012, livery cabs are getting a new legitimacy from the city as Mayor Bloomberg has created a fleet of apple green colored livery cabs that can be legally hailed from the street in the outer boroughs and northern Manhattan.

After a five-year search for the next generation of taxis, Yellow cabs will also get a facelift in 2013 with the introduction of the Taxi of Tomorrow, a new model from Nissan called the NV200 that features skylights and chargers for personal electronics but is not an environmentally-friendly hybrid and lacks accessibility options for disabled persons. Expect a gridlock of lawsuits and disgruntlement. But also expect the service New Yorkers and visitors to the city have come to rely upon to continue for as far into the future as we can imagine. TAXI!

Bibliography and credits
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