Stupid things in NYC: Taxi lights

6
Feb
2011

I don’t have very many bad things to say about New York, I think it is the most amazing city in the world. But nothing is perfect, and one of the things that has always bugged me here are the lights on top of taxis. As in most places, the light bar on the roof of the taxi tells you when the taxi is available. In New York, this light is made up of the cab medallion number for identification purposes.  When that medallion light is on the taxi is (usually) available. And when it is off, the taxi has a fare and is driving them to their destination, thus unavailable. But there are also two “OFF DUTY” lights, one on either side of this number. When these are lit, the cab is off duty and also unavailable. Why they would need you to know that the cab is off duty as opposed to just unavailable I am not sure. After all, an unavailable cab is an unavailable cab. Still, I could live with it if the off duty lights were the only thing that was on when a cab was off duty. But alas, no. They light up both the medallion number AND the off duty lights (which by the way are often dim), and so from a distance it is very hard to tell that a cab is off duty, one just sees the light and raises a hand, only to be cruelly disappointed as the cab gets within clearer sight range. It would make much more sense just to have one light, on or off, to indicate in a sensible, binary, way whether you could get one or whether you must continue to wait in the freezing rain. At the very least, they should keep the medallion light off when they are off duty, as it is much easier to spot two small lights than three in a row posing as one.