Designing the Ideal Taxi Stand for New York City

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One of my biggest frustrations on crutches was finding taxis in places or times of poor bus service. Even more frustrating was watching people basically cut me in line for the next taxi by either running ahead of me or just standing further up the block than me, snagging the next available taxi. Furthermore, it was most often the case that the taxi would stop for pick-up or drop-off in a lane of moving traffic, the cross walk or (much to my chagrin) a bike lane.

All of this may change in the future if the Taxi & Limousine Commission follows some of the advice of the Design Trust’s "Designing the Taxi," (PDF file) which looks at many revolutionary new ideas that would transform how the taxi system operates. But specifically, this photo of a mini-taxi stand that a person could walk up to, press a button and have a light pop-up for any taxi to see and for them to look for intrigued me with it’s beautiful simplicity. Taxis could also simply take a quick break in one of these to wait for a person to enter the taxi, preventing endless cruising around the city.

A good start in Manhattan would be to situate these every three to four blocks on the main avenues and then also between every avenue on the main crosstown streets. In the outer boroughs, these should be located in areas without good mass transit service and near major shopping destinations. All it would take to have a safer, more convenient, high class taxi pick-up and drop-off system is giving up a few dozen free or metered parking spaces per neighborhood, which may be a nice side benefit in that it would reduce the incentive to drive to that area and take mass transit or walk instead.

  • Dan

    This would be a great idea in a city with a culture of civic goodwill. This has always been a place where if you could do something to gain a slight advantage over your fellow citizens you did it.  J-Walking, cheating on taxi hailing by moving down the block, double parking, all of these things are a legacy of a city that for a long time defined itself as a place of casual lawlessness and civic decline.   

  • Epidemic Cholera, high murder rates, rampant drinking and driving, etc were once all thought to be intractable social / cultural ills that could never be fixed in NYC. And yet we get good local community groups to advocate for change, government acts, people’s values change and then what was once thought impossible suddenly occurs in a much shorter period than anyone could image. We can be very adaptable when we want to be.This concept is one of the many ways that you can help change a culture. Will it happen over night? no. It takes education, good role model behaviors, media coverage, civic leaders encouraging good behavior. In other words, it takes time and persistance. But it’s worth doing in the long run.

  • someguy

    that’s an important point, Glenn.  i often fall prey to cynicism after all i’ve seen, but the truth is that change does come – and, as you said, it often can come quickly, especially if you ride the wave of a greater societal trend……. such as SUSTAINABILITY!  🙂

  • Dan

    Glenn I agree.  I didn’t mean to suggest that no one will ever find a way to fix some of the more vexing social/political/spatial problems of our fair city.  I just wanted to provide some persepctive(as I think I’ve seen it) for why ideas like this don’t gain a lot of traction.  I’ve seen tons of ideas for making the city more liveable and I think a lot of them run couter to some very deeply held beliefs about this place.  Which I’m not saying won’t change or can’t be changed, but we’re really only dealing with the first generation of people who grew up not really knowing how close the city came to be being given up on by its own residents.  I really apreciate your attitude though. We’ll never make any progress if everyone continues to be so cynical.

  • Hannah

    There was a proposal for taxi stands by the Giuliani administration in 1995. I don’t remember whether it was implemented, or what the result was if so.One person’s reaction was published in the NYT. Here’s part of it: "The concept of dozens of New Yorkers on a bleak, wind-swept February
    day queuing up patiently at a taxi stand while an equally long line of
    cabs snakes around the block waiting for them to "embark" strikes me,
    at best, as the collective musings of delirious bureaucrats." I tend to think that the present free-for-all  works reasonably well, and I too once had my taxi-taking increased by a broken foot. Some of the taxi stands that do exist, such as the official one at Port Authority and the unofficial "Wall Street Express" pickup at 79th and York are a real hazard when you’re on a bike.

  • We definitely need more taxi stops, particularly in neighborhoods like the Upper East Side.  I was just at a neighborhood association meeting where they were talking about a taxi stop mostly for shuttling people down to Wall St.  The problem they were discussing was that that’s all the cabbies seem to want to do – go to Wall St.  If you’re going somewhere else they have been known to refuse to take you, saying this stop is for Wall St.-bound people.  People feel uncomfortable trying to catch cabbies at that "station" because it’s always full of people going to Wall St.Their solution: they’re getting a sign put up proclaiming in effect that cabbies must take all fares.I was thinking, why not create more taxi stops?  One dedicated to the most common fare makes sense, if you have others where people can also know they’ll catch a cab, safely and quickly, to their "alternative" destinations.  All it takes is giving up a few parking spaces.  And some signage/design to let people & cabs know this is a cab stop for X purposes can only help.

  • Dan

    Adam,That’s a great idea.  I just moved to Brooklyn(from the UES) and I know this is going to sound snobbish and generally attract nothing but scorn and ridicule, on the few occasions, mostly late nights, that I have tried to get a cab to take me to Brooklyn I have had shouting matches in the back seats of taxis.  I even had a driver tell me that there was too much traffic on the Manhattan Bridge at 2:30am. All of which makes me think that a taxi stand telling drivers the approximate location of their destination in advance would save a lot of people a lot of time and energy.  On the other hand cabs don’t like to take poor passengers to places where poor people live because poor people tend not to be looking for more taxis.  As such I think you’d get tons of cabs scouting the wall street, UES, UWS stands, but basically doing everything in their power to avoid customers they know are going above 96th street or to the outer boroughs.  I worry that if you take away the element of surprise I’ll never get another late night cab ride home.  Also, this a message to anyone who ever was told that cab wouldn’t go to your destination. DON’T GET OUT!  It’s the law that the driver has to take you where you want to go.  You don’t have to be rude, but I usually just remind drivers that it’s the law and say something about calling 311 from the cab and that often does it.   

  • Good news, Glenn. The Design Trust for Public Space in partnership with the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) didn’t stop with the “Designing the Taxi” project. The work that began there is continuing down the road to a better taxi and taxi system with “Taxi 07.”

    Taxi 07 will celebrate the taxi cab’s centennial next year, fostering design innovation and developing a Taxi Master Plan in partnership with the TLC. We’re working on improving the accessibility, sustainability and user-friendliness of the taxi vehicle, and looking at taxi stands too.

    The centerpiece of the program will be the Taxi 07 Exhibit at the NY International Auto Show from April 6-15, 2007 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. There you’ll see prototypes of more effective taxi stands and better taxi vehicles, including some with easier to negotiate entries, even on crutches! The best part is that these ideas will be ones that can improve the taxi system in NYC soon — between 2 to 5 years.

    Check the Taxi 07 web site (www.taxi07.org) for more information on this project, and to learn about program related activities.

  • Antonio

    Great idea. what abougt having multiple loading slots. One person per cab can get tedious. Perhaps 3 cabs can pull up into 3 slots with room for them to leave once their passenger is ready.

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