Let’s Raise Standards for Cab Drivers, Not Race to the Bottom

The Uber web site emphasizes emphasizes the ease of obtaining  a TLC license.
The Uber web site emphasizes the ease of obtaining a TLC license.

As cab medallion owners complain of competition from Uber and Lyft, the Taxi and Limousine Commission appears to be making it easier for applicants to acquire a hack license.

On Sunday the Times reported that the TLC hack license exam will have fewer questions on geography, since drivers can use GPS to navigate the city. The TLC says this will allow for a greater emphasis on TLC rules, including safety regulations. But GPS is distracting enough that cabbies are not supposed to use it while driving. And it’s not as if the TLC is limited in the breadth of knowledge it can require of prospective drivers.

Uber and Lyft drivers are required to have a for-hire vehicle license, which for some reason remains easier to obtain than a license to drive a yellow cab. (“Getting a TLC license is not a complicated process,” says the Uber web site. “All it requires is a little paperwork.”) According to the Times, the change to the TLC exam comes as fleet owners worry that interest in driving yellow cabs is on the wane, and cabs sit idle in garages.

The Times said more people are passing the revised TLC test. One applicant “said he had found it easy despite his complete lack of driving experience in New York City.”

Asked if he could pilot a cab to prominent Manhattan locations such as Penn Station, Times Square or Grand Central Terminal, the applicant, a recent immigrant from Bangladesh now living in Briarwood, Queens, said, “Absolutely not.” He asked that his name be withheld because he feared angering the taxi commission.

The Times reported that the TLC exam is still evolving, and agency spokesperson Allan Fromberg noted that a more rigorous for-hire curriculum is under development. Fromberg said there will eventually be less of a distinction between exams for the two types of licenses. But applicants for either license still won’t be required to pass a New York City road test.

To elevate the profile of cab driving as a profession, the TLC should make for-hire licenses and hack licenses more difficult to get. The London taxi exam — which requires encyclopedic knowledge of the street grid — is likened to a degree in law or medicine, and it’s not uncommon for a driver to earn around $100,000 U.S. a year. Higher licensing standards, better pay, and improved working conditions would make driving a yellow cab more appealing without letting unqualified drivers behind the wheel.

Dumbing down the TLC exam might mean more money for fleet owners. But for the safety of cab drivers and the public, the TLC needs to raise standards across the board, not make yellow cabs more like Uber.

  • mizbusybody

    For hire license: no test vs hack license drivers must know taxi laws go to taxi school pass English and knowledge exam with 80

  • Andres Dee

    What’s troubling is the “no license-no problem” banner. Is Uber suggesting that someone is going to look the other way (as sometimes happens with “car service” drivers?

    Here are a few questions I want to see on the test, but suspect none are:

    (I’ve witnessed most of the situations below, not necessarily by commercial drivers.)

    You have a green light and are about to make a turn. There’s someone in or about to enter the crosswalk. What do you do?
    – Honk the pededestrian and make the turn
    – Wave the pededestrian through because you’re having a slow day
    – Run the pededestrian down and blame it on a bicycler
    – Wait for the person walking to cross. Walkers crossing straight have ROW over turning vehicles

    You’re at an intersection and the light is green. The car ahead of you has turn signal on but has not moved forward. What do you do?
    – Honk
    – Turn on your burglar alarm siren and pretend you’re an emergency vehicle
    – Rev your engine
    – Assume that the driver in front of you is respecting a walker’s right of way and smile to yourself

    You’re approaching an intersection with no light or a yellow flasher. There’s someone in or about to enter the crosswalk. What do you do?
    – Honk the pededestrian and proceed
    – Wave the pededestrian through because you’re having a slow day
    – Run the pededestrian down and blame it on a bicycler
    – Wait for the person walking to cross. Walkers in unsignalled crosswalks have the right of way

    You’re approaching an intersection and the light is green. There’s a bicycle to your right and you’re about to turn right. What do you do?
    – Honk the bicycler and make the turn
    – Wave the bicycler through because you’re having a slow day
    – Run the bicycler down and blame it on a pededestrian
    – Run the bicycler down and say you didn’t see her
    – Slow down and wait for the cyclist to pass. Vehicles going straight have ROW over turning vehicles and that includes bicycles.

    You’re approaching an intersection in the left lane. There’s a cyclist ahead of you with her left arm out. What do you do?
    – Honk the bicycler. Bicyclers should never be in the left lane
    – Honk the bicycler. Bicyclers should not be on the road at all
    – Honk the bicycler. What the heck is she doing waving her arm like that
    – Slow down and prepare to stop. She’s about to turn left. Cyclists signal turns and stops with their arms and, like other vehicles, take left turns from the left lane.

  • Jonathan R

    To elevate the profile of cab driving as a profession, perhaps the drivers should earn a living wage. My understanding of the Times article is that the TLC is doing the bidding of the medallion owners by credentialing more candidates. The medallion owners only get paid if there are drivers operating their yellow cabs, so they need to make the yellow cabs more attractive vis-a-vis other for-hire driving opportunities in order to maintain the same revenue without raising wages.

  • Tyler

    Why would the cab drivers have to learn the geography of the city when they refuse to leave Manhattan (south of 125th)?

  • jdslater

    It’s true about the London test.
    My wife is learning it at the moment. She has to learn about 320 routes. Each route can be made up from up to 20 different streets/roads and she has to remember up to 5 points of interest along each route.
    When you sit the final exam they will try to put you off by swearing or throwing things at you. But as roads change you can give alternatives to that route as the journey is supposed whats best for the passenger.
    You also have to have a criminal record check and medical tests.

  • cybertec69

    The reason Uber is killing the Yellow Taxi is because the Yellow still operates in their archaic ways, and will be extinct if they continue to do so. I used to drive for Uber but recently left do to the ludicrous rate cuts “their system is fantastic and a main reason drivers and pax prefer it to the Yellow cab”, use of GPS is a big reason many drivers left the yellow Taxi, most drivers know the ins and outs of the city, but once having to venture outside the city limits it get hairy for the driver and the pax, 90 percent of my previous pax told me they don’t use yellow anymore do to drivers getting lost or getting stuck in traffic “which could have been avoided”, things move faster today with the evolution of technology, pax want it fast, this goes with any business, in the old days if a can driver got lost or got stuck in traffic, he/she knew the pax would come back do to no other competition, , the competition has arrived and is eating their lunch, and the Yellow cab is slow to comprehend why.
    I use an A2DP earpiece which helps me keep my eyes on the road while the navigation gives me the directions, which 90 precent of the time I don’t need, but is good to gauge traffic conditions “without me having to be looking at it”, at the same time I can concentrate on the road and get my pax to their destination fast and safe.

  • Rob Gonzalez

    This industry will never ever be the same it once was.. The good old days are over. Oversaturation of the tlc will slowly cripple drivers income. Too many drivers not enough riders.