Service of Taxis

August 11th, 2011

Categories: Dissatisfaction, Follow-Up, Indifference, Passivity, Responsiveness

There were 7,700 complaints about taxi drivers in NYC, February-February 2010-2011, according to Andrew Grossman. In his Wall Street Journal article “Many Taxi Complaints, Little Action,” he noted that these reports of dangerous or discourteous behavior resulted in hearings for 11 percent of the drivers, according to Taxi & Limousine Commission statistics.

I’m also sure that the 7,700 complaints are only a fraction of the number of complaints that there might be. On the way in to work today I was almost run over by a taxi driven by a man who wanted to make the turn onto 42nd Street at Second Avenue when he was ready to, whether or not there were pedestrians crossing at the light. It happened so fast I didn’t get his license.

Grossman also reported that after making the complaint, few bothered to take the next step to get the hearing process rolling, which was to send back to the city a letter that the city had sent them. Whew! What effort! An onerous time-killer.

Most city people or frequent travelers to cities have at least one memorable taxi story, their own or a friend’s.

A client told of a hair-raising drive to a NYC airport even though he had plenty of time and told this to the driver. He pleaded with him to slow down. Driver didn’t listen.

My parents found themselves face on with a taxi in a two lane, two-way NYC tunnel. He was passing another car and he ignored the “no passing” signs and double yellow line.

A colleague told of a nut driver who swore nonstop after she entered the car, using increasingly foul language. She scrambled out and tossed money at him when she could safely exit.

I saw a driver, enraged from having to stand in traffic, dash off at such a rate his wheels jumped on the sidewalk at a crosswalk barely missing people waiting there for the light to change. His passenger must have had an anxious ride. Nobody on the street had time to note his license number because they were jumping out of his way.

Given the potential harm to others–Grossman described additional complaints such as “drivers offering marijuana and whiskey and pulling away before riders get both legs out of the car,” as well as one medallion with eight passenger complaints because the driver appeared to be sleeping or not fully alert–don’t we owe it to fellow pedestrians and passengers alike to follow up on such behavior?

What’s the cause of this passenger passivity: Lack of time? Ennui? Fear of retribution? Dread of causing someone to lose his/her job? Do you have a taxi story–good or bad?

8 Responses to “Service of Taxis”

  1. Hester Craddock Said:

    To answer your question, anyone who has lived in this city as long as I have — 60 years — knows that it is a bad mistake to become involved with the city bureaucracy for any reason. When you file a complaint, if you follow up, you are going to be giving up at least a half day of your life, and often far more. Worse, nothing good ever comes out of your doing it.

    I’ve had my share of bad, even extremely dangerous, experiences riding in taxi cabs, but I never have had a problem when I have ridden in a driver owned taxi. Ownership structure, not the drivers, is the root of the problem.

    Many years ago, probably back before the days of beloved Mayor LaGuardia when that most corrupt of corrupt institutions, Tammany Hall, ran things, somebody decided to limit the number of yellow cabs that could pick up passengers in the city. They did this by issuing at minimum cost a limited number something called a “medallion” to the people who then owned and operated taxis who were then mostly cab drivers or were Democrat party workers or contributors. However, at the same time, they went right on issuing hack (or taxi driver licenses) to anybody who wanted one and could pass the simplest of tests.

    As driving a taxi in New York was a good way for someone, like immigrants without other employment opportunities, willing to work hard, long hours to make good money, there was always more demand for medallions than there was a supply of them. Now the market price of a medallion, which was worth nothing when it was issued, is well in excess of $700,000. (Mind you, the city doesn’t see a penny of that $700,000. The seller gets to keep it all.)

    What has happened, of course, is that owning medallions has become a big, highly profitable, largely unregulated business. The owners, and there are relatively few of them, are very rich and politically very powerful. They extort every penny they can get out of their drivers who are mostly immigrants who can barely speak English or other down and out types, while the police for racial reasons, although they would never admit it, go out of their way to harass them. While the rich get richer, taxi service stinks more than ever in this sad city.

    If you need a cab, either pray for a driver-owned taxi or use a car service.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I hate to agree with you: The outcome of taking hours of time to follow up on something like this with the city is iffy at best. Who has the patience and the time? Sad situation.

    Another clue to the problem is in your second-to-last paragraph: The rich have cars and drivers and don’t need to use cabs. In addition, to get around an overcrowded city at certain times of day, subways are best and even the rich know this.

    Quelle mess.

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    I am fearful about New York taxi rides in particular having heard them likened at best to being in a washing machine. I am concerned about being taken for more of a ride than expected or transported to destinations not of my choice.

    However, I also sympathize with those who opt to drive a taxi despite the enormous risks they subject themselves to by constantly picking up strangers. Perhaps a public campaign designed to elevate our sense of civic pride and responsibility as well as concern for society as a whole could possibly ameliorate the taxi experience for both drivers and passengers.

    Japanese taxis are impeccably clean and most seats and headrests are covered with WHITE crocheted lace or stretch doilies. The uniformed drivers are professional and polite. They are proud of their vehicles!

    On a more light-hearted note, I recommend looking at the madcap scene of a taxi with 2 “Ladies Who Lunch” as passengers, and a driver inextricably wrapped around a telephone in the movie, “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    As much of Europe has professional waiters who regard their profession not as a way to eat while waiting for another job to open up [as many do here] but rather as a way to make a distinguished and honorable livelihood, NYC used to have taxi drivers who knew every nook and cranny, were fun to speak with, lived in the outer boroughs and had been drivers for 20+ years.

    It’s not only in NYC that you’ll find cab drivers who will take you the long way when there is a far shorter one. This is an old trick practiced by many a big city driver. That’s why I always like to know where I am going in an unfamiliar city, even when taking a taxi. I also prefer public transportation because I am more relaxed because I don’t like feeling like a chump!

  5. JBS Said:

    My favorite story about NY Taxi drivers is that they never speak English and they fight between taxis, one to another. A colleague had a great story about being mad at a driver and telling him off, whereupon, he threatened to take her back to her apartment.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    A few years ago a cab driver who hardly spoke English reprimanded me because I worked. He told me that women shouldn’t work.

    I’ve had a few who scared me so I decided to agree with whatever nutty political or religious views they shared. After dark in iffy neighborhoods miles from public transportation isn’t the time to stand on a pulpit to make a point to someone who is crazy and driving the car.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Too bad taxis are only used for emergency and not convenience. The cabbies would then be forced to work harder for their dollars. Courtesy and appropriate behavior would escalate, and complaints diminish.

    One day, people might tire of of being fleeced, and drivers will be forced to upgrade their service or starve.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    There are plenty of people on expense account who don’t think twice about flagging down a taxi. When there are a few drops of rain, it’s hard to find one. I agree that should expense accounts or incomes of taxi-takers shrink, business will drop and suddenly we’ll see unctuous smiles, hearty “good mornings,” and decent driving.

Leave a Reply