The yellow New York Taxi: its history from 1897 to the present day

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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New York yellow cab: a story with twists and turns

Electric taxis

The birth of New York taxis dates back to the end of the 19th century. Electric Carriage and Wagon Company launched 12 electric taxis in 1897, before holding a hundred two years later.

Did you know that the first speeding fine in the United States was written in 1899? She was received by Jacob German, who was driving one of these taxis! Fun, isn't it?

Then, at the beginning of the 20th century, the famous taxi company had no less than 1.000 to its credit.

Unfortunately, the company was forced to file for bankruptcy following the banking crisis of 1907 that hit the big apple.

Thus a return to the use of the horse-drawn "cab" was made, before Harry N. Allen decided to create a system of taxi paid by the mile. He therefore ordered 65 French cars running on gasoline, and thus was born the New York Taxicab Company ! A year after its creation, the company owned 700 yellow taxis.

Then, during the 20s, many manufacturers got into the taxi business, which was very buoyant at the time. The best known was Checker Motors Corporations, at the origin of yellow and black taxis, at the time very popular.

A few years later, New York City had more taxi drivers (nearly 30.000) than passengers.

Then, in 1937, the Haas law was signed, giving rise to the system of licenses and taxi medals, still in force today.

A finally yellow color

But finally, why the color yellow? Originally, the taxi of the time was either red and green (New York Taxicab), or yellow and black (Checker Motors Corporations). So how did he become THE yellow New York cab that we all know?

In Chicago, during the same period, businessman John Daniel Hertz started his taxi company, the Yellow Cab Company. And as the name suggests, its taxis were painted… yellow!

Indeed, the latter had documented himself from a study carried out by the University of Chicago, which declared that yellow was the most visible color from afar. So, the most practical for locating your taxi, right?

The entrepreneur then expanded his company to other cities across the country, including New York. Then, in 1967, a law was passed requiring all licensed taxis to be yellow in color.

The marks used for the New York yellow cab

In the early 90s, the Ford Crown Victoria was the benchmark car for taxis, as were some minivans. The Chevrolet Venture, the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey were particularly popular.

Then, a decade later, these models were gradually replaced by the very famous Toyota Prius as well as the Ford Escape, the Volkswagen Jetta or the Torota Camry for example.

Today, there are no less than 12.000 yellow taxis in Manhattan, that's a lot, isn't it?

You now know everything about the New York yellow cab ! However, did you know that there are also green taxis in New York City?

The Boro taxi: New York's green taxi

These green taxis, called Boro cabs or Boro taxi, have been operating in the Big Apple since 2012. However, they are only allowed to take passengers in certain boroughs of the city.

So you can get in a green cab if you are in the Bronx or Queens, Brooklyn or Staten Island. All over, except in Manhattan, finally.

You will also not find them near airports or after 96th East and 110th West Streets.

Taxi New York: practical advice

Finally, and anyway, if you have to take a taxi in New York, do not hesitate to hail him by raising your arm if its light is on. This indicates that he is free. Be careful, however: today, “Médaillon taxis” (yellow taxis) are the only ones allowed to pick up customers who hail them in the street.

Also, once inside, tell the driver a street crossing as a destination. Indeed, New Yorkers do not really locate themselves thanks to the street numbers, as is the case with us. It must be said that the streets are so big! So take the fold and speak at the intersection.

That said, my little advice would be to wait until you are installed in the taxi before indicating your destination. Indeed, the drivers will not have the right to refuse you the ride once you are inside. This would not be the case if you are still outside the vehicle.

Finally, do not hesitate to consult my article on all the practical information about New York taxis. You will know in particular a little more about applied tariffs to get you back to the airport, or how to pay.

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