Aug 242004

I had a very strange taxi experience today, and for the second time ever, I called in a complaint to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

If you don’t live in New York City, you might not be familiar with the laws and protocols surrounding taxis. Taxis you can hail on the street are painted yellow. They are ubiquitous everywhere in central Manhattan, and you can hail them any time, day or night. You can’t call for a yellow cab; if you want to call for a cab, you have to call a car service.

Tonight, I saw a friend of mine before she flew away. (Her flight is at 6:30 am tomorrow morning!) I went to the street to hail a cab at around 10:45 pm. A cab pulled up and asked me where I was going. This in itself was a little annoying–cabs are required to take you anywhere in New York City. They can’t ask, and then decide whether or not to take you.

I told the driver that I was going to Brooklyn Heights, and that he had to take the Manhattan Bridge. This is a legitimate request, and, given the street that I live on, the best way to get to my apartment. Of course, if the driver said something like, “the bridge has 30 minute delays,” I might say we could take the Brooklyn Bridge, but I would want to see the delays myself. Drivers like to take the Brooklyn Bridge more because it has less stop-and-go traffic, but it also takes longer and has a higher fare. If you try to get to my apartment from the Brooklyn Bridge, you spend an extra 15 minutes getting spun around in Brooklyn Heights. TLC rules also require that a cab take the route you want to your destination.

The driver said he would not take me over the Manhattan Bridge because of the lights. I told him to pull over and let me out. I opened the door, and said that I would be filing a complaint with the TLC. This is where it started to get weird. The driver started to argue with me. He told me that he would take me, and that I couldn’t get out of his cab. With the door open, he tried to drive, but I told him I was getting out. Then, after I got out, he rushed to the pay phone, called someone on the phone, and indicated that I should talk to the person on the phone. I simply started to write down his license number and hail another cab.

Here is where it got really weird. The license number of a taxi is in six different places: on the sides of the cab, on both license plates, on a lighted sign on top of the cab, and on a license behind the drivers head. The license number is four digits. It is always four digits. Heck, this is what it says on the TLC web site. This license number was six digits. The license plate sort of looked like that, but I don’t think it was limited to six digits. The lighted sign on the cab was unreadable. Instead of dawdling, I wrote down the number and jumped in the next cab.

The first cab driver tried to get my cab to stop, but the new cab just drove me home. This was a good thing. In hindsight, I could have also taken some pictures of the cab with my camera, but I think I did the best thing in getting away from there as fast as possible.

On the way home, I filed a complaint with the TLC. I will definitely show up for a hearing if there is one. However, the license number is sketchy enough that I am going to give the local police precinct in Midtown a call as well. It could be really dangerous if someone is posing as a cab driver.

Followup: I called the Midtown North Precinct and explained that I was concerned about the license number. The police officer asked me the medallion number, and I read it off to him. He told me not to worry, but that it was a new series of license numbers that the TLC was using. It definitely set my mind at ease. It is was good to find out that the cab driver was simply an ass rather than an out-and-out crook.

 Posted by at 11:56 pm

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