Monday, February 2, 2009

How To Hail a NYC Taxi

Hailing a taxi is not a universal skill. Each country, each city for that matter, has a different set of rules. And in New York City, disobeying the rules means you will likely be standing outside on a street corner for a very...long...time. Check out this "How To" guide before you hit the streets.

See the Light
A NYC taxi exists in three states: occupied, available and off duty.

Occupied: One never wants to flail arms or shout "taxi" at a taxi with NO LIGHTS ON. This is an indication (as is the silhouette of peoples' heads) that the taxi is occupied.
Occupied Taxi
Available: If the CENTER LIGHT IS ON, all systems go. Stick out arm on a high diagonal and just leave it there. No over-the-top waving necessary, and please, no thumbing. If it's summer and windows are open, one can give a little shout, but I prefer the silent hail. The less NYC noise pollution the better.

Off Duty: When both the CENTER LIGHT AND SIDE "OFF DUTY" LIGHTS ARE ILLUMINATED, the cab is officially off duty, which means one's chances of success are a crapshoot. If one can get an off duty cab to stop, the driver will ask which direction you are heading. If one's direction is geographically desirable, one may score a ride.

Off Duty Taxi [Photo: Current]

Taxi Etiquette

I was here first!
If one is sharing a street corner with other taxi hailers, it should be noted that whomever was there first gets the taxi. No sneaky business is tolerated amongst New Yorkers. And although I've seen it happen, one (male) shouldn't take taxi from another (pregnant or older female) under any circumstances.

Can you take 5?
For group nights on the town, one may wish to squeeze more than the four legally acceptable passengers in the taxi. This doesn't fly. If one's group must stay together, one may try hailing the unmarked car services and negotiating the price. Or if no car services are present, one may try the old "distract and duck" trick. One of your group members assumes shotgun position, distracts driver with song or lewd act, and your fifth passenger ducks in the back. Success rate about 50 percent.

We're making three stops
If one would like to make multiple stops, make sure it is mentioned in beginning of journey. Taxi drivers like to stay informed.

Credit or Cash?
All cabbies prefer cash over credit because it's more money for them in the end. But even if a cabbie pushes one to cough up the greenbacks, it's perfectly acceptable for one to pay by credit, no matter how small the charge.

Motion Sickness
Sometimes a combination of foreign smells and aggressive driving/braking causes one's stomach to churn. If this occurs, one should politely request that the driver tone it down and open the windows. To avoid queasiness, one should try to track down the S.U.V. or mini-van taxis. They are higher up and more nausea-friendly.


Gilighan Qabista said...

i drive a cab in nyc and i stamp this post with approval. i have a blog about the world from the eyes of a nyc taxi driver. check it out.

Skyring said...

Heartily endorse this advice. I drive a cab in Canberra, where it's mostly rank and radio work, but if I see someone trying to flag me down and they look reasonable, I'll stop.

But I never take five. I've seen all the distract the cabbie techniques, and I count the heads in the backseat before going anywhere.