15 Things You Didn’t Know About NYC Cabs

Yellow — and now, apparently, green ?— cabs are an iconic part of New York City. Whether they’re your go-to commute to beat the subway, your late night lifeline to the Brooklyn bars, or even if they’ve come uncomfortably close to running you over in a busy Manhattan street — they’ve become a part of your daily life.

But few of us know much about these sleek, innumerable beasts, which seem to be at any street corner anywhere, anytime.

(okay, almost anytime… you may not have much luck hailing one in the middle of Queens at three in the morning)

Here are 15 interesting facts I’m betting you didn’t know about NYC cabs:

1. Taxi driver is the occupation with the highest number of deaths due to violence

Data collected nationwide between 2006 and 2013 showed that cabbies outranked cops in deaths occurring at work due to violence. It’s now clear why there’s a rock hard divider between driver and passengers that gives the NYC cab its oh-so-claustrophobic appeal!

Source: Bloomberg News

2. Cabs had a terrifying reputation in the 19th century


In the 1880s, horse-drawn hansom cabs that travelled the NYC streets at night were nicknamed “nighthawks”; their drivers often cheated their customers and many were involved in sketchy night-time business. Those poor horses must have seen a lot…

Source: Taxi!: A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver, by Graham Russell Gao Hodges © 2007 The Johns Hopkins University Press.

3. Horses weren’t easy (or economical) cab pullers

Until gasoline-powered cabs were introduced shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, horses dragged around New York’s elite in hansom cabs. But their cab-pulling career usually only lasted around four years. They often ran away, kicked pedestrians, and died in the streets, only to be dragged off by other horses… Remember that next time you’re on a horse-drawn carriage ride in Central Park.

(not that any right-minded New Yorker would ever do that, ugh)

Source: Anthropology in Practice

4. Riding a cab in the early 20th century was basically all about “swag”

First of all, I’m sorry for using an ever-cringeworthy word no one’s used since 2011, but come on… in his 1906 book “The New York Cab Driver and His Cab,” author Vance Thompson’s claimed cab riding “will inculcate self-respect and a certain fat way of taking one’s ease in life.”

I, for one, didn’t feel too much self-respect stuck in midtown traffic the other day as I panicked about being late to a doctor’s appointment.

Thompson was pretty insistent, though:

The youngest man-about-town knows, of course, the two elemental occasions for taking a cab — when he wants to be alone, or when he wants to be alone with her… You ride in a cab in order to be seen riding in a cab.

Vance, you devil! Next time I’m on a date, I’ll ask the cab driver to parade up and down Broadway all night so we’re the center of attention!

Source: Taxi-library

5. Cab service as we know it started from a guy getting pissed after being ripped off

In 1907, businessman Harry Allen and his girlfriend were charged $5 for a three-quarter-mile trip in a Manhattan hansom cab. This got him royally ticked off, and he set off to France, returning with 65 brand new gasoline-powered cabs that he flaunted up and down 5th Avenue. Several hundred more followed suit, but poor Harry was forced out of business the year after, because of violent riots by drivers on strike.

Source: Taxi!: A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver, by Graham Russell Gao Hodges © 2007 The Johns Hopkins University Press.

6. We really don’t NEED this many cabs…

A recent MIT study found that 98% of ride demands in Manhattan could be satisfied by as few as 3000 cabs, as opposed to the 13,600 that serve the five boroughs today.

The catch: we’d need to share rides and accept an increased trip time of 3.5 minutes on average.

Still, given the effect on congestion and pollution that up to 10,000 fewer cars patrolling Manhattan would likely have, this might eventually be a sacrifice worth considering!

Source: CNN

7. 1 in 100 NYC medallion cab drivers are women

This shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Men make up an overwhelming majority of drivers in all industries. Thankfully, things are on the move! 349 women registered as medallion cab drivers in 2015, some 63 more than in 2010.

Sources: Taxi & Limousine Corporation, Amny

8. NYC cabbies will have to undergo anti-discrimination training

The Taxi & Limousine corporation will soon implement a comprehensive course to educate drivers on the New York City Human Rights Law, which protects passengers from discrimination based on factors like age, race, sexual orientation or disability.

Source: Amny

9. A taxi medallion was once worth more than a million dollars

In 2014, the value of the taxicab medallion peaked at $1.3 million! That’s 7,831 times more than its $10 going price in 1930. Ever since the rise of competitive services like Uber and Lyft, the price has been plummeting. One medallion sold for $241,000 earlier this year — its lowest value of the century. Needless to say, those who bought them for millions a few years ago aren’t too pleased.

Source: New York Post 1 and 2

10. A cabbie drives an average of 180 miles per shift

That’s basically the equivalent of driving to Baltimore every day. Except when you’re done, you don’t get to treat yourself to crabs and old bay :(

Source: Statisticbrain

11. Cabbies went on strike to protest Trump’s January travel ban

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance stopped rides from JFK between 6 and 7pm on January 28th, in response to President Trump’s immigration order. "We cannot be silent. We go to work to welcome people to a land that once welcomed us," the union said in a tweet. "We will not be divided."


12. You can sleep in a yellow cab for $39 a night

Jonathan Powley, a stand-up comedian (makes sense, doesn’t it?), listed a former NYC cab as an Airbnb vacation rental in a parking lot in Long Island City. Don’t worry, there are beds — you DON’T have to sleep on the seats. Location wise, it leaves a bit to be desired, but you get a great view of Manhattan and those prices are unbeatable! (it even managed to earn a four-star rating, too!)

Source: New York Times

13. Cab drivers publish an err… ambitious annual calendar

Need I say more?

14. 4% of medallion cab drivers were born in the U.S.

Those who drive one of NYC’s most recognizable icons are as multicultural a bunch as you can find. 167 different countries are represented among the cabbies of America’s melting pot!

Fun fact: Some 24% of medallion drivers are Bangladeshi — the largest representation of any country.

Source: Taxi & Limousine Corporation

15. Drivers HATE those annoying screens just as much as we do!

Believe it or not — those laggy, broken screens in the back seat of every NYC cab are a bigger nuisance to the drivers — who sit inches in front of the speakers — than to us passengers! In 2015, cabbie Eugene Solomon began offering a dollar to passengers who turned the screen off! I’d do the same if I had to listen to some boring talk show host who won’t shut up for my whole 12 hour shift! Fair game, Mr. Solomon.

Source: New York Post

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