Taxicabs of the United States

Taxicabs of the United States

Throughout the United States there is a mature system of taxicabs. Most US cities have a licensing scheme which restricts the number of taxicabs allowed. These are sometimes called medallions or CPNC (Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience).

Often taxi businesses own their own cars, and the drivers are employees of the company. However, cabs can also be owned by separately-incorporated small businesses that subscribe to a dispatch service, in which case the company logo on the door is that of the dispatch association.

A suburban taxi company may operate under several different names serving several adjacent towns. They often provide different phone numbers for each fleet, but they usually all ring into a central dispatch office. They may have subsidiary taxi businesses holding medallions in each town. Taxi companies also may run multiple businesses, such as non-medallion car services, delivery services, and school buses, for additional revenue, as the infrastructure required for maintaining, operating and dispatching the fleet can be shared.


The City of Boston, Massachusetts issues hackney carriage licenses. The Boston Police Hackney Carriage Unit handles the regulation of the city's taxis.

To become a licensed taxi driver in the city of Boston one must report to Boston police headquarters located next to Ruggles train station on the MBTA Orange Line. The candidate must prove he is legally eligible to work in the United States and must have had a Massachusetts drivers license for a minimum of one year. There are also other requirements that may or may not be enforced by the hackney officer on duty, such as the ability to speak fluent English.

Although you may find upwards of 30 phone numbers for taxi companies in the city there are really only a few radio rooms where cabs are dispatched from.

If you are looking for property you left in a cab you should leave messages with all of the above radio dispatch rooms and then go to Boston Police Headquarters next to Ruggles train station on the MBTA Orange Line.


Taxicabs in Chicago are operated by private companies and licensed by the city. There are about seven thousand licensed cabs operating within the city limits. [,CST-NWS-taxigas16.article] Licenses are obtained through the purchase or lease of a taxi medallion which is then affixed to the top right hood of the car.

Each medallion carries a numeric code, which is also displayed prominently at several locations on (and in) the taxicab. The medallion must be purchased from the city or from another medallion owner. The supply of medallions is strictly controlled to prevent a surplus of cabs, which means that medallions trade at a high price. Unlike other cities Chicago taxis can be of any color and drivers are not required to wear uniforms.

Flagging a taxi down is fairly easy throughout most city neighborhoods, but can often be more difficult in areas where there is low demand for cabs. Drivers are required to pick up the first or closest passenger they see, and may not refuse a fare anywhere within the city.

The passenger is required to pay the amount on the taximeter plus any additional tolls or fees. The initial entry, sometimes called a "meter drop" or "flag pull", is $2.25 regardless of distance traveled. Each additional fraction of a mile charge is $.20 for each additional 1/9 of a mile. Additionally, each 36 seconds of time elapsed, known as "wait time", is $.20. This charge is in place to ensure the driver still makes money if the cab is stuck in bad traffic. There is a flat fee of $1.00 for the first additional passenger and another $.50 for each additional passenger after that unless the passenger is under 12 or over 65 years of age. As of May 1st, 2008 an additional flat fee of $1.00 is added to all fares (Fuel Surcharge).

An additional charge of $1.00 is added to the total fare on each trip to or from O'Hare or Midway Airports under the State of Illinois Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) Airport Departure Ordinance. The tax should appear on the meter as an "extra" charge. There is no additional charge for baggage or credit card use and tipping is optional but encouraged at the rate of 10% of the total taximeter fare.

City of Chicago taxicabs must accept credit cards, unless the taxicab is independently owned and operated - that is, the cab does not belong to an affiliation. You can tell that a cab belongs to an affiliation from the logo on the outside door of the cab. Another way to tell if the taxicab that you are riding in is an independently owned taxicab - and therefore not subject to the requirement to accept credit cards - is whether the taxicab has a "partition" between the passenger compartment and the driver. Partitions are mandated for all taxicabs, except independently owned and operated taxicabs. [ [ City of Chicago ] ]

Below are some estimated cab fares from State and Madison, the downtown zero point.

* State and Madison to O'Hare Airport: $30 - $35.
* State and Madison to Midway Airport: $22 - $28.
* State and Madison to the United Center: $8 - $10.

Rates from Chicago, excluding O'Hare and Midway Airports, are straight meter to the city limits plus meter and one-half from the city limits to the destination.

Straight meter fares apply to all trips departing from Midway or O'Hare airports to the following suburbs. (All other trips are metered at one and one half the rate from Chicago's city limits to the suburbs.)


Taxicabs are licensed by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) who regulates number of cabs, meter rates, and other rules and regulations.

Metro Transportation has PUC license for 498 cabs, Yellow has license for 300, and Freedom has license for 150.

Meter rates are as followed:

There is a flat 'flag drop' rate, which is $2.60 for Metro, $2.50 for Yellow. Once in the car, there are two rates: milage and time. Both are counted in $0.25 increments, and the dividing line between the two is 15mph. One can estimate their trip to cost $2 per mile for Metro Taxi, $1.80 per mile for Freedom Cab, and $2.25 per mile for Yellow Cab, and approximately $0.25 per red light on that trip, plus the drop rate.

There are three 'flat rate' trips set by the PUC:

Downtown Denver to Denver International Airport, or DIA to DT: $43Denver Tech Center to DIA, or DIA to DTC: $45Anywhere within the city limits of Boulder to DIA, or DIA to Boulder: $70

Other rates vary by company, and include per-person rates, luggage handling, and pets. Individual drivers are also known to set their own rates for extraneous circumstances, such as bodily fluids in the car, or smoking with a non-smoking driver, which some local police will assist the driver in enforcing if necessary.

Vehicles are generally owned, inspected, and maintained by the Taxi company, and leased to the drivers. Some of the companies have 'owner drivers,' who are drivers that own their own vehicle, pay a slightly reduced weekly lease, and have to pay for maintenance on the vehicle.

New York City

The taxicabs of New York City, with their distinctive yellow paint, are a widely recognized icon of the city. There are more than 13,000 taxis operating in the city, not including over 40,000 other for-hire vehicles. [cite news|title=The State of the NYC Taxi|author=New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission|date=2006-03-09|url=|accessdate=2007-02-18] Taxicabs are operated by private companies and licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), a New York City government agency.

Only "medallion taxis," those painted in distinctive yellow paint and regulated by the TLC, are permitted to pick up passengers in response to a street hail. The TLC also regulates and licenses for-hire vehicles, known as “car services” or “livery cabs”, which are prohibited from picking up street hails (although this is less often enforced in outer boroughs) and are supposed to pick up only those customers who have called the car service's dispatcher and requested a car.

Medallion taxis are named for the official medallion issued by the TLC and attached to a taxi’s hood. The medallion may be purchased from the City at infrequent auctions, or from another medallion owner. Because of their high prices, medallions (and most cabs) are owned by investment companies and are leased to drivers (“hacks”). An auction was held in 2006, where 308 new medallions were sold. In the 2006 auction all medallions were designated as either hybrids (254) or handicap accessible (54) taxis.

Yellow cabs are often concentrated in the borough of Manhattan, but patrol throughout the five boroughs of New York City and may be hailed with a raised hand or by standing at a taxi stand. A cab's availability is indicated by the lights on the top of the car. When just the center light showing the medallion number is lit, the cab is empty and available. When the OFF DUTY inscriptions to either side of the medallion number are lit, the cab is off duty and not accepting passengers.

As of June 2006, fares begin at $2.50 ($3.00 after 8:00 p.m., and $3.50 during the peak weekday hours of 4:00–8:00 p.m.) and increase based on the distance traveled and time spent in slow traffic (40 cents for each one-fifth of a mile or 60 seconds of no motion or motion under 12 miles an hour). The passenger also has to pay the fare whenever a cab is driven through a toll. The taxi must have an E-ZPass tag, and passengers pay the discounted E-ZPass toll rates. [ [ New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission: Passenger Information, Rate of Fare] , accessed June 11, 2006.] Taxi drivers are not permitted to use cell phones while transporting passengers, even if they use a hands-free headset.

241 million passengers rode in New York taxis in 1999. The average cab fare in 2000 was $6; over $1 billion in fares were paid that year in total. [cite news|title=Taxi Dreams|author=PBS and WNET|date=2001-08|url=|accessdate=2007-02-18]


Unlicensed taxicabs are found among the Amish of rural Pennsylvania. Old Order Amish do not drive, but will hire a van or taxicab for trips which they cannot use their traditional horse and buggy transportation. [ [ "Pa. Officials Cracking Down on Unlicensed 'Amish Taxis'"] , Insurance Journal, January 4, 2008]


In Pittsburgh, "jitney" refers to an unlicensed taxi. They are plentiful in low-income communities where regular taxi service is scarce. As enforcement is lax, jitney drivers have even created cooperatives to support each other and to establish jitney stands. They are known to gather at the parking lots of grocery stores in low-income communities. Some jitney drivers accept requests for service by phone from their regular customers. [ [ 'Jitneys remain in driver's seat'] , Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 20 June 2004]

The issue of whether to legalize jitneys has been considered several times by Pennsylvania's Public Utilities Commission since at least 1975. [ [ 'Jitneys Legalization Proposed to Ease Transportation Woes'] ] Famed Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson wrote a play called "Jitney", which was published in 1982.

Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia recently changed from an antiquated, zone-based fare system to a conventional meter-based fare system beginning May 1, 2008. [ [ Final Rules, District of Columbia Register, Vol. 55, No. 15, Page 73] ] The rates are a $3 flag drop rate and 25 cents for every one-sixth of a mile after the first sixth of a mile traveled. There also will be a 25-cent charge for every minute spent stopped or traveling less than 10 mph. The snow emergency rate will be the regular fare plus 25 percent.

Additional passengers will add $1.50 each to the fare, and there are various other typical surcharges for luggage, dispatch, etc. The maximum fare for all trips within the city is $19.

Many of the taxis are pale yellow or white. Some of the most common taxis in the city include Ford Crown Victorias, Ford Tauruses, some Mercurys, and even some Lincoln Town Car models. Most of the District's 6,500 to 7,000 cab drivers own their own vehicles; in fact, the District is the only region in the country where the majority of cabs are independently owned and operated.Recently DC joined the ranks of cities with Eco-friendly cab services. [ EnviroRide] serving MD,VA,DC and EnviroCab servicing Arlington, VA. [ [ Fenty: Taxi Drivers Without Meters Will Face Tickets, Fines (Washington Post, April 22, 2008)] ]

Taxicabs by city


* [ Taxicabs per city study]
* [ Baltimore study]
* [ Boston study]
* [ Los Angeles study]
* [ New York City study]
* [ San Francisco study]


ee also

Taxicabs by country

External links

* [ New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission]
* [ Washington, D.C. Taxi Fare Estimator]

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