Ride or Die

Off Duty Light Goes Off: Taxi Light System to No Longer Confuse Tourists

Raise your hands if you're sure?
(Photo: Yellow Cab NYC)

(Photo: Yellow Cab NYC)

It’s a secret point of pride for experienced New Yorkers that we know how to properly parse the mystifying taxi light system. It gives us a leg up over tourists, who spend so much time trying to differentiate between the Available and Off Duty lights that by the time they realize the cab is free, a local has already settled into the backseat.

But now, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Taxi & Limousine Commission has voted to revamp the baffling system: during scheduled taxi inspections between January and April, all taxis will be outfitted so that their signs only display one light when they’re available. When they’re taken or off-duty, the sign will be dark.

“From the point of view of the person on the street, they just need to know I can stick my hand up and flag it down,” said TLC Commissioner David Yassky at the meeting, prior to the vote.

The TLC discussed the change during the same meeting in which they addressed Uber’s longstanding e-hailing battle, though voting on that decision may be a long ways off. The TLC’s Beaver Street office is still being run off of a generator after losing power during another large public meeting, during which attendees had to exit by walking down 19 flights of stairs.

Revamping the complicated light system should go a long way towards making a cab easier to catch. Mr. Yassky said the new system just makes “plain, common sense.”

Still, some New Yorkers are rather disgruntled about the leveled playing field. “New York is not supposed to be easy,” a certain Betabeat reporter angrily Skyped. “Tourists are supposed to get lost.”

Additional reporting contributed by Nitasha Tiku.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com