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How to Get a Taxi in NYC (2023 Update)

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Ready to conquer New York City’s bustling taxi scene like a pro? Hold tight, because you’re about to dive headfirst into the ultimate NYC Taxi 101! From the secret handshake of hailing a cab, to epic taxi vs. Uber and Subway showdowns, we’ve cracked the code on it all. No fluff, no frills, just the straight-up insider scoop you need.

Strap in for a wild ride through New York’s vibrant transportation jungle. Your city-savvy adventure starts now—let’s roll!

Hailing a NYC Taxi: The Step-by-Step Guide

Hailing a taxi in NYC can seem intimidating if you’re not accustomed to it, but it’s actually a straightforward process. By following these steps, you’ll have a taxi at your service in no time:

  1. Select a Good Spot: It’s crucial to choose a good spot to hail your taxi. Look for a location where taxis can easily pull over without disrupting traffic. Sidewalks near corners are typically good places as long as they’re not within an intersection. Avoid hailing a taxi from bus stops, crosswalks, or anywhere else where it’s illegal for a vehicle to stop.
  2. Identify an Available Taxi: In NYC, available taxis have the center part of their rooftop light turned on, displaying the medallion number. A taxi is occupied or off-duty if this light is off, even if the outer lights (indicating the fare) are on.
  3. Get the Taxi’s Attention: Once you spot an available taxi, position yourself visibly on the edge of the sidewalk and make a clear, confident waving gesture. Extend your arm fully and make sure the driver can see you. You can also try to make eye contact with the driver.
  4. Enter the Taxi: After a taxi pulls over for you, approach it quickly and enter on the curbside for safety. Before getting in, note the medallion number on the roof or inside the cab. It’s essential information if you leave something behind or need to report a problem.
  5. Give the Driver Your Destination: Once inside the cab, clearly state your destination to the driver. It’s common to give the cross streets (for example, “34th and 7th”). For well-known locations, like airports or popular landmarks, the name is sufficient.
  6. Understanding the Fare: Be aware that the fare is metered and the initial charge is $2.50. Additional charges for distance and time apply, as well as surcharges during certain times and for tolls. The driver should start the meter after you get in and your destination is clear.
  7. Payment: At the end of your ride, you can pay with cash or a credit card. If paying by card, there’s a touch screen in the back seat where you can complete the transaction, choose to add a tip (typically 15-20% of the fare), and receive a receipt.

Taxi New York City

Types of NYC Taxis

New York City’s iconic taxis are not just a means of transportation, but an integral part of the city’s identity. Here are the types of taxis you will find in NYC:

  1. Yellow Taxis: Also known as medallion taxis, yellow taxis are the most iconic and recognized taxis in NYC. They’re the only vehicles allowed to pick up passengers in response to a street hail across the entire city.
  2. Green Taxis: Officially known as Boro Taxis, green taxis were introduced to improve taxi service in areas where yellow taxis are less frequent, primarily in Upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens (excluding the airports), and Staten Island. They can pick up street hails in these areas, but not in the Hail Exclusionary Zone, which includes most of Manhattan below 110th Street.
  3. Livery Taxis: Also known as car services or black cars, these vehicles are dispatched from a base to pick up passengers anywhere in NYC, primarily through pre-arrangement via phone or app. Unlike yellow and green taxis, they’re not permitted to pick up street hails.
  4. Accessible Taxis: Both yellow and green taxi fleets include wheelchair-accessible vehicles. These taxis are equipped with ramps or lifts and have interior modifications to secure wheelchairs.

Here’s a comparison table to illustrate the differences:

Taxi Type Color Hailing Method Operating Area
Yellow Taxi Yellow Street hail Citywide
Green Taxi (Boro Taxi) Green Street hail Upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens (excluding airports), Staten Island
Livery Taxi (Black Car) Various, often black Pre-arrangement (phone or app) Citywide
Accessible Taxi Yellow or Green Street hail or pre-arrangement Same as respective taxi type (Yellow or Green)

Recognizing these types and understanding their unique operating rules can help you navigate the city more effectively and choose the right taxi for your needs.


Taxi Etiquette and NYC Taxi Fares

Immersing yourself in the fast-paced life of New York City involves experiencing the city’s culture, and NYC taxis are a significant part of that culture. To ensure a pleasant ride for you and your driver, let’s delve into some key taxi etiquette points:

  1. Entering and Exiting – To maintain safety and avoid any mishaps, it’s common courtesy to allow the driver to open and close the door. This practice helps prevent accidental door strikes with cyclists or passing cars.
  2. Interactions with the Driver – Engaging in conversation with your driver is entirely acceptable, and often appreciated. However, always be mindful that they are responsible for navigating busy streets, so avoid any overly complicated or potentially controversial topics that might distract them.
  3. Tipping Practice – Tipping your taxi driver is customary in NYC. Typically, passengers tip between 15-20% of the total fare. However, the amount can be adjusted based on the quality of the service provided.

Understanding the fare structure is key to estimating your taxi ride cost in NYC. The fares are metered, ensuring they’re calculated based on both the distance traveled and the time taken for the journey.

  1. The Drop and Mileage Charges – When you start your ride, the meter initiates with an initial charge, known as the ‘drop,’ which is $2.50. Following that, for every 1/5 mile (or 320 meters) you travel or for every minute the taxi is stopped or moving slowly, there’s a charge of $0.50.
  2. Additional Surcharges – There are a few additional charges you should be aware of. For rides between 8 PM and 6 AM, a night surcharge of $0.50 is added. During the weekday rush hour, between 4 PM to 8 PM, there’s an additional $1 surcharge. Plus, any tolls encountered during the journey are also added to your fare.
  3. Payment Modes – You have the flexibility to pay your fare either by cash or card. If you’re paying by card, a screen in the back seat lets you select the desired tip amount before finalizing the payment.

Resolving Issues and Disputes in NYC Taxis

Despite best efforts, there may be situations where issues arise during your taxi journey. Here’s how you can address them:

  1. Lost Items – In case you leave behind an item in a taxi, the first step is to contact the cab company directly. If your attempt is unsuccessful, the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) provides a Lost Property Inquiry system where you can file a report.
  2. Fare Disputes – Should you find yourself in disagreement with the driver regarding the fare, route taken, or quality of service, try to have a calm conversation with the driver to resolve the matter. If the issue remains, note down the taxi’s medallion number and contact the TLC to file a complaint.
  3. Reporting Other Concerns – If you encounter any other problems, such as reckless driving, overcharging, or unprofessional behavior, it’s essential to report these incidents to the TLC. They are the regulatory body for taxis in NYC and aim to ensure a safe and fair taxi experience for everyone.

Taxis vs. Uber

Venturing into the landscape of New York City transportation offers a variety of choices. Let’s explore how traditional NYC taxis compare with modern rideshare services like Uber.

  1. Availability and Ease of Use – NYC taxis shine when it comes to spontaneous street hails. Just step onto the sidewalk and flag one down. In contrast, Uber requires a smartphone, an app, and a bit of time to request and wait for your ride. However, it offers the convenience of booking a ride from anywhere, even indoors, and gives you an estimated arrival time.
  2. Pricing – Taxis have metered fares regulated by the TLC. Even during peak hours, the fares remain stable, with only a small rush-hour surcharge. Uber uses dynamic pricing, which means during periods of high demand, prices can surge significantly. However, Uber can sometimes be cheaper during off-peak hours or for longer distances.
  3. Comfort and Preferences – While the quality of both Uber vehicles and taxis can vary, Uber offers choice. You can choose from different service levels, ranging from budget rides in UberX to luxury experiences in Uber Black. Taxis don’t offer this choice, but they follow a standard which ensures a certain level of comfort and safety.
  4. Accessibility – Both Uber and NYC taxis offer wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Uber has the UberWAV service, but availability can sometimes be an issue. NYC taxis have around 13% of their fleet as accessible vehicles, and they can be booked through accessible dispatch programs.
  5. Payment and Tipping – NYC taxis accept both cash and card payments, and tipping is expected. With Uber, payment, including tip, is handled entirely through the app, making it a cashless experience.

Taxis vs. Subway

Public transportation is another viable option for getting around NYC, with the Subway being the most comprehensive and popular. Let’s compare taxis with the Subway system.

  1. Speed and Traffic – Taxi rides are subject to NYC traffic, which can be unpredictable. Subway trains, running mostly underground, are generally faster during rush hour, but taxis may have the edge during off-peak times or for less direct routes.
  2. Convenience and Accessibility – Taxis offer door-to-door service, which can be more comfortable and efficient, especially if you’re carrying luggage or shopping bags. The Subway has more limited accessibility with many stations lacking elevators, making it challenging for those with mobility issues.
  3. Coverage – The Subway serves most areas of NYC comprehensively. While taxis can theoretically go anywhere, they’re easier to hail in Manhattan and at airports. For outer boroughs or less busy areas, you might need to call a cab or use an app.
  4. Cost – A single ride on the Subway is considerably cheaper than a taxi ride, especially for longer distances. However, if you’re traveling in a group, splitting a taxi fare can be comparable to or even cheaper than Subway tickets.
  5. Experience – Riding in a taxi provides a more private and personalized experience, and it’s a chance to see the city from street level. On the other hand, the Subway offers a quintessential NYC experience and is a great way to observe local life.
Factor NYC Taxi Uber Subway
Availability High availability in Manhattan and at airports. Can be hailed on the street. Requires a smartphone and app. Available citywide but wait times can vary. Extensive coverage with regular schedules, but station availability can vary by neighborhood.
Ease of Use Easy for spontaneous trips. Requires understanding of hailing process. User-friendly app, but requires internet access and a bit of wait time. Requires understanding of Subway map and ticketing system.
Pricing Regulated and stable prices. Surcharge during peak hours. Dynamic pricing. Can be cheaper off-peak or for longer distances, but can surge during high demand. Flat fare per ride regardless of distance. Cheapest option for single riders.
Comfort & Preferences Standard comfort. No choice in type of vehicle. Different service levels, from budget to luxury. Can be crowded during peak hours. Mostly standing during short commutes.
Accessibility About 13% of fleet is wheelchair-accessible. Can be booked via dispatch programs. UberWAV service available, but availability can vary. Many stations lack elevators, making it challenging for those with mobility issues.
Payment & Tipping Accepts both cash and card. Tipping is expected. Cashless, all handled through app including tip. MetroCard or OMNY contactless payment systems used. No tipping.
Experience Private and personalized experience. City view at street level. Depends on chosen service level. Can be private and luxurious with higher service levels. Quintessential NYC experience. A way to observe local life.

In summary, choosing between NYC taxis, Uber, and the Subway depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and understanding these can help you make the most of your NYC transportation experience.

How To Get A Cab When It’s Raining

You will most certainly be one of the lucky few if you manage to successfully hail a Taxi in New York City  when it rains. The rule of thumb here: if it’s raining, the chances of getting a cab are basically nil. Your best bet would be to go somewhere that can call you a cab, outside of a high profile hotel for example.

Yellow Cabs in New York

Special situation: Airport transfers: watch out

Many tourists decide to take a cab from the airport to their New York hotel. Be sure that the driver is charging you the the airport “set fare” or “flat fare”. For transportation from JFK to Manhattan (as well as the return), a flat rate applies, plus tolls and $0.50 state tax. Then add approx. 20% tip. Depending on the location of your hotel, you can assume a cost of approx. $70. Unfortunately, there are always drivers who try to deceive tourists. If the driver will not give you a flat rate, then don’t get into the cab – make that perfectly clear from the start.

Pro tip: Here you find my complete guide to airport transfers in NYC.

As you can see, taking a cab in New York can be exciting, especially as it is not an every day occurrence for many tourists. With these tips however, you are now well prepared for finding, hailing and safely getting to your destination in a NYC Yellow Cab.


10 Fun Facts About Yellow Cabs in NYC

These iconic taxis, painting the city in bright hues of yellow, are more than just a mode of transportation—they’re a piece of New York’s identity. From their medallion roots to movie stardom, we’ve gathered ten fun facts about yellow cabs in NYC that will make your next ride all the more fascinating. Let’s get started!

  1. Medallion System: Yellow taxis, also known as medallion taxis, get their name from the metal disc, or medallion, attached to their hood. These medallions are issued by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC).
  2. Medallion Value: At their peak in 2013, these medallions sold for over $1 million each, largely because they were considered a surefire investment.
  3. First Yellow Cabs: The first gasoline-powered yellow cabs hit NYC streets in 1907. However, yellow cabs didn’t become common until 1915 when John Hertz of Hertz car rental fame painted his taxis yellow based on a University of Chicago study suggesting yellow was the most visible color from a distance.
  4. Number of Yellow Cabs: As of 2021, there were approximately 13,500 yellow cabs in New York City.
  5. Driver Nationalities: NYC taxi drivers represent approximately 167 different nationalities.
  6. Daily Rides: Yellow cabs provide about 485,000 rides per day.
  7. Taxi Drivers vs. Population: There are more taxi drivers in NYC than there are people in Fairbanks, Alaska.
  8. Movie Star: Yellow taxis have appeared in countless movies and TV shows, contributing to the image of NYC worldwide.
  9. 24/7 Service: NYC’s yellow cabs provide 24/7 service and can travel anywhere within the five boroughs.
  10. High Mileage: On average, a yellow taxi travels about 180 miles per shift.

FAQ

How do I hail a taxi in NYC?

Stand on the curb, not too close to intersections or where stopping is prohibited. Signal an oncoming taxi with its center rooftop light on by raising your arm and waving.

Can I book a taxi in advance in NYC?

Yes, you can pre-book a taxi through various taxi dispatch services or taxi-hailing apps available in the city.

How much does a taxi cost in NYC?

The base fare is $2.50, with additional charges for distance, time, and during peak hours. There may also be surcharges for tolls.

Do NYC taxis accept credit cards?

Yes, all NYC taxis must accept credit and debit cards alongside cash.

What’s the difference between yellow and green taxis?

Yellow taxis can pick up passengers citywide. Green taxis serve areas less frequented by yellow taxis, excluding most parts of Manhattan below 110th Street.

How do I know if a taxi is available?

An available taxi in NYC has its center rooftop light, displaying the medallion number, illuminated.

How does a taxi compare to Uber or the Subway in NYC?

Taxis are typically faster for short distances and readily available in Manhattan. Uber can be cost-effective for longer distances. The Subway is economical and reliable, particularly during heavy traffic.

Is tipping required in NYC taxis?

Yes, it’s customary to tip taxi drivers in NYC, typically 15-20% of the fare.

Are NYC taxis safe?

NYC taxis are regulated and licensed by the city, and drivers undergo thorough background checks, making them a safe transportation option.

Are there wheelchair-accessible taxis in NYC?

Yes, both yellow and green taxi fleets include wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

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