15 Things You Didn’t Know About Taxis


City officials are considering raising taxi fares by 17 percent, which has made cabbies very happy.

Today, the New York Post reports that cabbies would be made even happier with more money: They want a $1 surcharge during rush hour, up from the current $.50 cost.

If a compromise can be reached, the Taxi and Limousine Commission might vote on these proposals as early as July. Of course, the bargaining process between the TLC, drivers union, and medallion owners isn’t seamless — from disagreements over vehicle rental rates to health insurance pools, these negotiations have had as many bumps in the road as New York City cabs’ storied history.

In the spirit of this ever-changing institution, we would like to present 15 things you didn’t know about taxis.

Definitely not in perfect chronological order…

15: It’s electric!

The first cabs were battery powered, and these electric cells weighed up to 800 pounds!

14: Till Death Do Us Park

Henry H. Bliss was the first guy in the U.S. to get struck fatally by an automobile in September 1890 — and the vehicle turned out to be an NYC cab.

13. Speed Racer

Jacob German, NYC cabbie, might have been the first American jailed for reckless driving. He was thrown in the slammer on May 20, 1899 “‘for driving his electric taxi at the ‘breakneck speed’ of 12 mph,” Wired writes.

12. Get Money, Get Paid

The first metered taxis hit the streets in 1907.

11. Something Corporate

In July 1897, the first taxicab corp in the City, The Electric Carriage and Wagon Company, released 12 “hansoms” (which probably freaked out the horses that made up most of the traffic.)

10. Potty Talk

Cabbies who have to get gas or get, er, relief, might be SOL: There are only 41 gas stations in Manhattan.

9. It’s Hard Out There for a Hack

But why are cabbies called “hacks,” you might ask? The term comes from London, where those black taxis are called a “hack” or “hackney carriage.”

8. Strike Out

In 1934, 2000 drivers took to Times Square to protest bad labor practices. At the time, this was thought to be the biggest strike in the City’s history.

7. Safety First

Responding to rampant street crime, the first bulletproof partitions started showing up in the 1970s.

6. Color Wars

Some of the first cars-for-hire had red and green panels.

5. Mellow Yellow

Officials eventually ordered cabs be painted yellow in the 1967, however, so that passengers could tell the difference between legal and illegal drivers.

4. Fare Game

Iconic Checker Cabs was started by Morris Markin, who came to the U.S. from Russia at a young age. The company grew to be the most successful in the city, outcompeting General Motors and Ford-owned fleets.

3. Arrested Development

In 2004, Mike Wallace was cuffed on charges of disorderly conduct when investigating the treatment of his taxi driver.

2. I’ve Got Sunshine

In 1936, a fleet of “Sunshine” cabs — which featured sunroofs — circulated the city.

1. Horniness

The taxi of tomorrow, which replaces the Crown Vic, has a low-annoyance horn. According to Car and Driver: “This castrated sound emitter is accompanied by an exterior light that illuminates to tattle on the driver to nearby honkees.” Also awesome: “honkees” is apparently a word.

Info from Wired, PBS, NPR, Time, Car and Driver, The Atlantic, New York Times, Online Dictionary.

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