How to hail a taxi in New York City, interviews with New Yorkers
How to Hail a Cab in New York
To an out-of-towner or foreigner, hailing a cab in NYC can be a little intimidating; you're not used to grabbing one off the streets, it's noisy out there and traffic is fast paced. But really the process is easy with a bit of know-how.
Know what to look for in terms of lights.A taxi in NYC has three basic light signs on the roof of the car:
- If only the numbers in the middle are lit, then that cab is waiting for you to flag it down.
- If only the outer lights are lit, then that cab is off-duty and headed back to the depot for a shift change, but it may still be possible to get a short ride.
- If there are no lights lit on top, then the driver already has a fare inside, but you won't need to wait long for another to come by.
Step out when you see a cab coming in your direction with only the central lights on.Do as the natives and simply step out onto the road. In most NYC streets, and every avenue you get a car's width of space between the curb and the flow of traffic, so don't worry about being splattered all over.
- Step out as far as you can, so that you can be clearly seen but not so far that you put yourself at risk from oncoming traffic.
- Put out your arm with your hand out flat (sort of like a horizontal high-five). That's all you need to do, the driver will pull into the nearest open space among the parked cars beside you or even slow long enough for you to jump in if the traffic is not too heavy.
See whether you can get a short ride.If the outer lights are lit then the cab is off duty as mentioned earlier, but if you are only going a short distance (roughly within 10 blocks, which equals half a mile) and the driver is going in that direction he or she may pick you up for the chance of a few extra bucks at the end of his or her shift. To signal this:
- Simply repeat the process of hailing a cab but bend your elbow slightly and give a 'thumbs-up' rather than an outstretched palm. This signals what the natives term a 'short stop' and the driver will decide whether to stop or not.
- If they drive past you, don't start yelling and flipping them off like they do on T.V., it's not going to make them stop and if by chance they do, well it's not to take you as a fare.
Wait for another cab.When there are no lights, this means no cab for you. This one is already taken. But don't fret, there are thousands driving around at any given time and most likely you'll only have to wait mere seconds for another one to come by.
Enjoy that giddy feeling.Once you've taken your first cab ride in the big city, it will stay with you for a while, and make sure to brag to everyone you know back home!
- It's important when hailing a cab that you don't block another hailer. This is seen as general street-etiquette in the city. If someone else is beside you is also trying to hail a cab, don't try to block them off if they were there first, and definitely don't steal the cab they've flagged down. Chances are this person is a native and they've got places to be and won't have any problem letting you know how they feel about your actions. You simply move further up/down on the block you are on or move on to the next block.
- Think ahead. If you need to be somewhere at a certain time and it is pouring down with rain, your chances of getting a cab are slim to none. It's complicated and very lengthy to explain why, but it's just a NYC fact. Think about taking the subway instead, it's cheaper, reliable and usually a heck of a lot faster too!
- Cab drivers in NYC are crazy! Where in most parts of the world, the size of the tip you give depends on how far you are going and how long it's taken the driver out of their way to get you there, in New York City, speed is key! The natives live here, they're not stopping to take selfies with the Empire State Building. They're trying to get from A to B, then off to C and back to A within the hour. The size of a driver's tip doesn't depend on distance, it depends on how fast they get you there. Faster means bigger tips. As a result of this, drivers will happily speed round the corners when the traffic lights are red and the walk sign is lit. If they see an opportunity they sneak round a corner and fly by before you even know it was there, unless you end up hanging on to the bumper for dear life. So, basically if you're new to the city, wait for others to begin crossing the street, then follow the crowd. Just until you get used to the general flow of city traffic.
Video: How to Take a Cab in New York City
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