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The taxicabs of New York City are widely recognized icons of the city, come in two varieties: yellow and green. Taxis painted canary yellow (medallion taxis) are able to pick up passengers anywhere in the five boroughs. Those painted apple green (street hail livery vehicles, or commonly known as boro taxis), which began to appear in August 2013, are allowed to pick up passengers in Upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens (excluding LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport), and Staten Island. Both types have the same fare structure. Taxicabs are operated by private companies and licensed by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). It also oversees over 40,000 other for-hire vehicles, including "black cars", commuter vans and ambulettes.
As of March 14, 2014, in New York City, there are 51,398 men and women licensed to drive medallion taxicabs. There are currently 13,605 taxicab medallion licenses in existence, 368 of them having been auctioned by the City of New York between November 2013 and February 2014. Each of these new medallions is earmarked for use with a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, which will be introduced into service over the next several months. Taxicab vehicles, each of which must have a medallion to operate, are driven an average of 180 miles per shift; the average total number of annual taxi passengers is 241 million. As of September 2012[update], there are around 7,990 hybrid taxi vehicles, representing almost 59% of the taxis in service – the most in any city in North America. The Nissan NV200 won the city's bid to become the "Taxi of Tomorrow" to replace most of the city's taxi fleet, with its introduction scheduled for October 2012. Nevertheless, this decision has faced several lawsuits and criticism. As of March 2014[update], 6,000 Street Hail Livery (SHL) permits have been issued, 20% of which must be used with wheelchair-accessible vehicles, with 4,478 Street Hail Livery vehicles already in use as of March 14, 2014 
The first taxicab company in New York City was the Samuel's Electric Carriage and Wagon Company, which began running 12 electric hansom cabs in July 1897. The company ran until 1898 with up to 62 cabs operating until it was reformed by its financiers to form the Electric Vehicle Company. The company then built the Electrobat electric car, and had up to 100 taxicabs running in total by 1899. 1899 also saw a number of notable firsts for the Electric Vehicle Company. On 20 May 1899, Jacob German, driving an electric taxicab received the first speeding ticket in the United States. Later that year, on 13 September, Henry Bliss became the first victim of an automotive accident in the United States when he was hit by an electric taxicab as he was helping a friend from a streetcar.
By the early 1900s the Electric Vehicle company was running up to 1,000 electric taxicabs on the streets of New York City until, in January, 1907, a fire destroyed 300 of these vehicles which, in conjunction with the Panic of 1907 caused the company to collapse.
In 1907, following the collapse of the Electric Vehicle Company, horse-drawn cabs once again became a primary means of transport around New York City. In early 1907 Harry N. Allen, incensed after being charged five dollars ($126.55 in today's dollars) for a journey of 0.75 miles (1.21 km), decided "to start a [taxicab] service in New York and charge so-much per mile." Later that year he imported 65 gasoline-powered cars from France and began the New York Taxicab Company. The cabs were originally painted red and green, but Allen repainted them all yellow to be visible from a distance. By 1908 the company was running 700 taxicabs.
Within a decade several more companies opened business and taxicabs began to proliferate. The fare was 50 cents a mile, a rate only affordable to the relatively wealthy.
By the 1920s, automobile manufacturers like General Motors and the Ford Motor Company began operating fleets. The most successful manufacturer, however, was the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company. Founded by Morris Markin, Checker Cabs produced large yellow and black taxis that became the most common taxis in New York City.
During the Great Depression, New York had as many as 30,000 cab drivers. With more drivers than passengers, cab drivers were working longer hours which led to growing public concern over the maintenance and mechanical integrity of taxi vehicles. To resolve these issues, the city considered creating a taxi monopoly, but the plan was abandoned after New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker was accused of accepting a bribe from the Parmelee Company, the largest taxi company.
In 1937, Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia signed the Haas Act which introduced official taxi licenses and the medallion system that remains in place today. The law limited the total number of cab licenses to 16,900, but the number dwindled to 11,787 licenses over the next six decades until 1996 when the TLC added 133 new licenses bringing the total to 11,920. Since 1996, more medallions have been added to the fleet bringing the total number of cab licenses to 13,237 as of 2009.
Because the medallion system artificially restricts the number of cabs, it has been criticized as an entry barrier to the New York City taxi market which has in turn created a black market for illegal taxicab operation in areas underserved by medallion cabs. Because the cost of leasing a medallion is so high, the system may cut into the income of drivers and raise costs to passengers. On the other hand, some transportation analysts contend that cities with no barriers to entry to the taxi market end up with an abundance of poorly maintained taxis. They say that a medallion system helps the city to better regulate taxis and enables the city to raise the standards of all taxis.
The medallions, which could not be sold for a simple $10 renewal fee during the 1930s, are now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, with fleet medallions topping $1,000,000 in 2011. Over the years, many medallions once owned by individual drivers were sold to large taxi fleets. To preserve the opportunity for individual drivers to own and drive their own taxi, certain medallions were designated for owner-operators. These cabs must be personally driven by the medallion owner for 210 nine-hour shifts per year, after which they can, if the driver chooses, be leased out. Corporate medallions, on the other hand, cost more, and are required to be leased double shifts, 365 days a year. About 29% of all taxis are owner operated, the rest are leased.
In the 1960s, New York City experienced many of the problems of social unrest that engulfed other American cities. Crime rates increased along with racial tensions. As a result, a quickly growing industry of private livery services emerged. Unofficial drivers were barred from picking up people on the street, but they readily found business in under-served neighborhoods.
In 1967, New York City ordered all "medallion taxis" be painted yellow to help cut down on unofficial drivers and make official taxicabs more readily recognizable. The wife of the president of New Departure, Nettie Rockwell, particularly liked the color yellow and it therefore became the color of the new Rockwell taxicabs. The Rockwell Service Cab became the Yellow Taxicab when Mrs. Rockwell selected that as her choice of color for the auto.
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The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) was established in 1971 with jurisdiction over the city's medallion (yellow) taxicabs, livery cabs, "black cars", commuter vans, paratransit vehicles (ambulettes), and some luxury limousines. Its predecessor was the New York City Hack Bureau, operated under the aegis of the New York City Police Department. TLC Inspectors are New York State peace officers.
Despite widespread use of bullet-resistant taxi partitions, seven cab drivers were killed and 3,000 were robbed in NYC in the first nine months of 1970. The response from regulators was to contend that "continued violent crime against cab drivers" (despite partition mandates) merited a new "lock-box" requirement. That requirement was abandoned, quietly, after it was realized that in response, the cabs themselves were being stolen.
From the mid 1980s into the 1990s, demographics changed among cabbies as new waves of immigrants arrived to New York City. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, of the 62,000 cab drivers in New York City, 82% were foreign born: 23% being from the Caribbean (the Dominican Republic and Haiti) and 30% being from South Asia (Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan).
Throughout the 1980s, working conditions for cabbies changed as crime in New York City was curtailed. Additionally, the cost of medallion licenses increased and fewer cabbies owned their taxicabs.
During the 1980s, production of the iconic Checker Taxi Cab ceased although many remained in operation. The Chevrolet Caprice and Ford Crown Victoria became the industry's top choices, with formerly used police cruisers providing a steady supply for cab fleets.
In 1996, Chevrolet ceased making the Caprice. The Ford Crown Victoria became the most widely used sedan for yellow cabs in New York. In addition, yellow cab operators also used the Honda Odyssey, Isuzu Oasis, Chevrolet Venture, Ford Freestar, and Toyota Sienna minivans, which offer increased passenger room. The distinctive Checker cabs were, due to their durable construction, phased out slowly. The last one was retired in July 1999, after more than 20 years in service and with nearly one million miles on its odometer. Laws since 1996 require taxis be replaced every 6 years regardless of condition.
In 1996, the TLC began Operation Refusal, an undercover sting operation created to address the alleged phenomenon of service refusal. In 1998, the TLC enacted a package of regulatory reforms, inspired by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, that included a structured framework of enhanced driver standards. In 1999, actor Danny Glover filed a complaint with the TLC, after he was allegedly refused service by New York cab drivers. This resulted in a highly publicized Operation Refusal crackdown on drivers who were allegedly discriminating against certain passengers, sometimes for race, but far more often because of the passenger's destination.
However, Giuliani's crackdowns led to a series of successful lawsuits against the city and the TLC. In 2000, a federal judge ruled that the NYPD had violated taxi drivers' First Amendment rights, by refusing to let the drivers engage in a peaceful protest of new rules. The TLC also lost a series of cases in state courts, for implementing rules without allowing for notice and comment. In 2000, another federal judge ruled that the Operation Refusal sting violated cabbies' due process rights. In 2004, TLC inspectors were embarrassed when they handcuffed and arrested 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace, charging him with disorderly conduct for allegedly having acted aggressively toward a TLC Inspector in defense of his driver. In 2006, the city was forced to settle the remaining aspects of the Operation Refusal case. Under the settlement, the TLC agreed to pay a group of 500 taxi drivers $7 million.
Many cabdrivers protested the new regulations sought by the Giuliani administration. In 1998, their activity formed the basis of a new taxidrivers' union, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Under the leadership of Bhairavi Desai, the union grew to fifteen thousand members (2011 estimate), representing almost one-third of all licensed cabdrivers in the city.
In order to encourage greater use of passenger seat belts to prevent partition-related injuries, the TLC instituted the "Celebrity Talking Taxi" program in 1997, using celebrity audio messages to urge passengers to buckle up and take a receipt at the ride's conclusion. The messages proved largely unpopular with both drivers and riders, as the TLC learned after conducting an online survey about the program in the fall of 2002. On the strength of those results, the Commission officially terminated the program in February 2003.
In 2005, New York introduced incentives to replace its current yellow cabs with electric hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape Hybrid. In May 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a five-year plan to switch New York City's taxicabs to more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles as part of an agenda for New York City to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the plan was dropped after Cab companies complained that the cost of maintaining the new hybrid vehicles vastly outweighed the tiny amount of fuel savings they got from going smaller. Proponents of the traditional Lincoln Town Car and Ford Crown Victoria say they were well suited to their task, while others said customers who cared for the environment preferred hybrids. Not only that, but passenger safety also became an issue with the newer vehicles, and 6 months after the program took effect, it was dropped. Still, the proportion of the taxi fleet made up of Crown Victorias has dropped over time. In 2010, it stood at about 60% of yellow cabs, as the number of Ford Escape Hybrid and Toyota Sienna minivans kept rising.
From September to December 2007, many of the taxis participated in a voluntary public art project called Garden in Transit in which flower decals painted by children were affixed to the hoods of taxis.
The TLC has mandated that by the end of January 2008 all taxis should be equipped with a Passenger Information Monitor that is a screen in the backseat that can provide entertainment, a live GPS map of location, and be used to pay for rides by swiping a credit card. The drivers will have an electronic Driver Information Monitor in which messages can be sent to them informing them of traffic conditions and facilitating retrieving lost objects.
Several taxicab drivers objecting to the cost of the devices (estimated at between $3,000 and $5,000 each) staged voluntary strikes on September 5 and 6 and October 22 in 2007. The city implemented a “zone pricing” structure during the days and the strikes had minimal impact on the city according to officials.
Originally, before October 2007, NYC Yellow cabs displayed the fare stickers in the front doors and the Words "NYC Taxi" and the medallion number on the back doors. On September 30, 2007, all of the yellow cab decals were redesigned. Now, the cabs are easily identified with the medallion number followed with a checker pattern on the left and right rear fenders, a futuristic fare panel on the rear doors, and a retro "NYC Taxi" logo on the front doors, with a yellow T in a black circle. As of August 2012, this design is now being phased out in favor of one that drops the "axi," leaving only the NYC logo and the circle-T. Also gone is the detailed fare information on the rear doors, replaced with a simple statement of a metered rate unless traveling to JFK Airport, where a flat fare is charged (see Fares section below for details).
As of February 2011, New York City had around 4,300 hybrid taxis, representing almost 33% of the 13,237 taxis in service, and about 6,000 by September 2012, representing 45% of the taxis in service. – the most in any city in North America. By mid-2009, owners began retiring their original hybrid fleets after they accumulated between 300,000 and 350,000 miles per vehicle. Two attempts by the Bloomberg administration to implement policies to force the replacement of all 13,000 New York taxis for hybrids by 2012 were blocked by court rulings, and on February 28, 2011, the United States Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal by the city.
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In 2007, city officials outlined a project to replace existing Ford Crown Victoria taxis—which were discontinued in 2011—and other taxis by 2014. In mid-2011, the TLC was to award an exclusive contract to sell and service taxicabs in New York City for 10 years. Karsan, Nissan, and Ford's bids were the three finalists, and all of their designs were based on small vans rather than sedans. The Karsan design was later rejected due to doubts whether the company could "execute the project". In the end, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the Nissan design as the winner to replace the city's 13,000 yellow cabs, to be phased in over five years starting in 2013.
|Finalists For Taxi of Tomorrow|
As of August 2013, manufacturing had begun in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where the stock NV200 is also assembled. Design features include room for four passengers, a transparent roof panel, independently controlled rear air conditioning, active carbon-lined headliner to help neutralize interior odors, along with antimicrobial easy-to-clean seat fabric, overhead reading lights, floor lighting, a mobile charging station, including a 12-volt electrical outlet and two USB ports, a flat passenger floor, a "low-annoyance" horn with exterior lights that indicate honking, hearing loop system, intercom and exterior lights that signal when door is opening.
In 2011, New York City was sued by United Spinal Association for choosing an inaccessible "taxi of tomorrow". The Justice Department issued a "Statement of Interest", which was sent to the NY Federal District court, stating that, if the city did not mandate a wheelchair accessible taxi as the "taxi of tomorrow", it would be in violation of the Americans With Disabilites Act. On November 3–5, 2011, at the TLC's public design expo inviting the public to try out parked prototypes, the Taxis For All Campaign mounted a "Roll-In" protest. Under the eye of news media outside the Flatiron Building on Broadway at Fifth Avenue, wheelchair users tried in vain to use the future cabs. Mayor Bloomberg's sustained initiative to amend the law, so that licensed livery cabs may pick up street hails just as yellow medallion cabs do, requires the Governor's approval; but Governor Andrew Cuomo opposes the City's choice of a non-wheelchair-accessible yellow cab. Thus, a compromise plan was announced in December 2011: the next 4,000 new medallions must go to accessible cabs, and the Governor will ratify the Mayor's initiative to let livery cars compete for street hails.
A fully electric version of the Nissan NV200 van may be available by 2017. However to test the concept, Nissan is sponsoring a pilot program with six Nissan Leaf electric cars and their charging stations, deployed to study the use of zero-emission electric vehicles as taxis. The Leafs were initially scheduled to be deployed in 2012, one year before the Nissan NV200s taxis were scheduled to be introduced. However, the pilot program was launched in April 2013, and by June 2013, only four Leafs are providing cab service in the city.
The deployment of the city's Taxi of Tomorrow would result in almost all the existing fleet, of which about 6,000 are hybrid electric vehicles, to be replaced within 3 years with the non hybrid Nissan NV200 passenger van. Only about 1,000 taxis will be exempted for various reasons, such as 273 taxis whose medallions require that they be high-mileage vehicles. However, in early 2013 the Greater New York Taxi Association filed suit against the city arguing that the Taxi of Tomorrow plan violates a section of the city’s administrative code because the Nissan NV200 is not a hybrid. In May 2013 a State Supreme Court judge blocked the Bloomberg administration’s plan for introducing the Taxi of Tomorrow, ruling that indeed it violated a New York City provision requiring a hybrid option for taxi operators. City officials did not challenge the judge’s ruling. In June 2013, the Taxi and Limousine Commission on Thursday approved an adjusted set of rules in an effort to introduce the Taxi of Tomorrow as scheduled by October 2013. According to the adjusted rules, only hybrids with a large interior of at least 130 cu ft (3,700 L) will be permitted. Taxi operators complained that the only compliant hybrids are prohibitively expensive. A spokesman for the commission noted that the Toyota Prius v is available for US$26,650, about US$3,000 less than the NV200. The two other hybrids, which comply with the rule, are the Lexus RX450h (US$46,310) and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid (US$41,410).
Historically, only "medallion taxicabs," those painted in distinctive yellow, were permitted to pick up passengers in response to a street hail. The TLC also regulates and licenses for-hire vehicles, known as "car services" or "livery cabs," which are prohibited from picking up street hails (although this rule is less often enforced in the boroughs outside Manhattan) and are supposed to pick up only those customers who have called the car service's dispatcher and requested a car. Following state legislation passed in 2011, the TLC voted in April 2012 to allow livery cabs to be licensed to make street pick-ups in the outer boroughs and northern Manhattan, a rule in effect starting in summer 2012. The implementation was held up with litigation, but on June 6, 2013, the New York State Court of Appeals, the State's highest court, found that the regulation of taxicabs was a compelling state interest, and that therefore the New York Legislature had acted within its rights when it authorized the new class of taxis. The Taxi and Limousine Commission plans to authorize up to 6,000 cabs per year for three years, ultimately creating a total of 18,000 green taxis.
Participating drivers must have their car painted and the Taxi logo and information printed, and also the affiliated base on the rear sides, and cameras, meters and GPS added. The GPS will not allow the meter to work if the cab is starting in Manhattan below East 96th or West 110th streets, and in the airports.
As of 2013[update], approved models for use as New York City medallion taxis are:
There is no restriction on the makes and models for boro taxis.
While medallion taxicabs in the city are always yellow and boro taxis are green, car service vehicles may be any color but yellow; they are usually black and are sometimes called "black car" services. Despite the de jure prohibition on picking up passengers who hail on the street, some livery cabs nevertheless do so anyway, often to make extra money. When a livery cab engages in street pick-ups, it becomes known as a "gypsy cab." They are often found in areas not routinely visited by medallion cabs, and authorities tend to turn a blind eye to the practice rather than leave sections of the city without cab service.
Medallion taxicabs are named after the medallion issued by the TLC and attached to a taxi’s hood. Medallions are sold from the City at infrequent auctions, or by a medallion owner. Because of their high prices (often over $700,000) medallions (and most cabs) are owned by investment companies and are leased to drivers ("hacks"). An auction was held in 2006 where 308 new medallions were sold. In the 2006 auction, all medallions were designated as either hybrids (254) or handicap accessible (54) taxis. In October 2011, due to the longtime trend in the medallions' supply and demand, auction prices first topped $1 million.
By comparison, in 2004, a taxi driver had an average yearly gross revenue of $90,747 and a net income of $49,532.
There are currently 13347 regular medallions, running from 1A10 to 9Y99, and including 136 SBV ("Standby vehicle") licenses, and TLC1 and TLC3. The letter series runs from 10 to 99, then advances to the next letter, skipping I, O, Q, R, S, X, Z. After Y, the first digit advances. The license plates bear a variation of the medallion number. The numbers assigned to boro taxis are not medallion numbers, but they are TLC Street Hail Livery license numbers which consist of two letters, starting with AA, and advancing to AB and AC... followed by three numbers. The license plates retain the previous numbers as a livery cab.
Medallion cabs (yellow cabs) are concentrated in the borough of Manhattan, but patrol throughout the five boroughs of New York City and may be hailed with a raised hand or by standing at a taxi stand. Boro taxis in "apple green" color can be hailed only in the outer boroughs (except at the airports) and in the northern part of Manhattan. A cab's availability is indicated by the lights on the top of the car. When no lights are lit, the cab is occupied by passengers. When just the center light showing the medallion number is lit, the cab is empty and available. When the OFF and DUTY inscriptions to either side of the medallion number are lit, (with the medallion number lit or off) the cab is off duty and not accepting passengers. In Fall 2011, the TLC announced a plan to replace the three-light system with a simple indicator as to whether the taxi is available.
As with livery cabs, there is an additional round amber light mounted on the left side of the trunk, as well as an amber light at the front of the cab, usually hidden from view behind the grille. When activated by the driver, these "trouble lights" blink to summon the police.
A maximum of four passengers may be carried in most cabs, although larger minivans may accommodate five passengers, and one child under seven can sit on an adult’s lap in the back seat if the maximum has been reached. Drivers are required to pick up the first or closest passenger they see, and may not refuse a trip to a destination anywhere within the five boroughs, neighboring Westchester or Nassau, or Newark Liberty International Airport. The TLC undertakes undercover operations to ensure cabbies do not engage in racial profiling or otherwise discriminate against passengers hailing cabs.
There are mobile apps designed to help people find, hail, and share cabs in New York City:
As of 4 September 2012[update], fares begin at $2.50 ($3.00 between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 am, and $3.50 during the peak weekday hours of 4:00–8:00 p.m.) and increase based on the distance traveled and time spent in slow traffic (50 cents for each one-fifth of a mile or each 50 seconds stopped or travelling under 12 miles an hour). An additional 50¢ tax is added to all trips within New York City. For trips to Nassau and Westchester counties, fare is the metered rate from the point of origin to the city limit, then twice the metered rate from the city limit to the destination. All trips between Manhattan and John F. Kennedy International Airport are charged a flat rate of $52. All trips to Newark Airport are charged the metered rate plus $17.50. The passenger also has to pay for any portion of the trip where the cab is driven on a toll road. The taxi must have an E-ZPass tag, and passengers pay the discounted E-ZPass toll rates.
According to an April 2011 study by the Chicago Dispatcher, New York City taxis have a relatively low standard fare, charging an estimated $14.10 for a distance of five miles and five minutes wait time (compared to an estimated $18.48 in West Hollywood, CA and $12.87 in Houston, TX). Taxi drivers are not permitted to use cell phones while transporting passengers, even if they use a hands-free headset, although this is widely ignored by drivers.
In 1999, 241 million passengers rode in New York taxis. The average cab fare in 2000 was $6; passengers paid a total of over $1 billion in fares that year.
As of 2012, New York taxis are only crash-tested before being equipped as a cab. According to Nissan, "The Nissan NV200 will be the only New York Taxi to be crash-tested with the partition installed."
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