Taxi, Limousine Commission approves plan to simplify taxi roof light

December 11, 2012

Live BlogThe New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a plan at a public hearing on Nov. 29 to modify taxicab roof lights so that they can show their availability more clearly.

The off-duty designation will be eliminated and the light

s will convey one of two messages: available or unavailable.

“We believe, and survey results have strongly agreed with this, that the current system of lights is confusing to people and does not communicate effectively,” said Alan Fromberg, Taxi and Limousine Commission deputy commissioner for public affairs.

According to Fromberg, taxi owners and operators are required to convert to the new roof light configuration by the date of their next scheduled inspection, which occurs three times a year between Jan. 1 and April 30. As a result the new lights can be seen as early as Jan. 1, and all cabs will be implemented with the new system by April 30.

“An ancillary benefit of this equipment update, is that the roof lights will no longer be in the driver’s manual control, which would circumvent their ability to cherry-pick passengers by flipping the light on and off,” Fromberg said.

Sharr Prohaska, clinical associate professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management, said New Yorkers will adjust well to the new roof lights, and tourists will also welcome the change.

“From the tourists’ perspective, I think this is a good change as the current signage is confusing unless you are from the city and understand how the lighting works,” Prohaska said. “Several times when the lighting says the cab is off duty they will pick you up if they are on their way home so personally, I would prefer to know if the cab is or isn’t available.”

The conversion comes at a minimal cost for taxi owners, according to Fromberg. The process includes blacking out the off-duty signal of the existing roof light, upgrading the software for the meter and the Taxicab Passenger Enhancements Project Systems and cutting the wires that enable manual manipulation of the roof light.

The Taxi and Limousince Commission also proposed regulations on a taxi-hailing smartphone app, after the release of Uber’s controversial app. The app helps connect cab drivers with potential passengers and allows for automatic credit card payment. But the legality of the app was challenged because of cab drivers’ were using their mobile devices while driving, so it was eventually pulled from Uber.

According to Fromberg, surveys have proven that a majority of those asked own smartphones and would use transportation apps.

“While we cannot say how exactly this would affect riders, we can speculate that they will be popular with the riding public looking to make their riding experience easier and more convenient,” Fromberg said.

Prohaska said the app would drive business especially during off-peak hours and it is a personal choice whether to utilize the app or not.

“I think it is better that they know where the potential riders are rather than riding around the city and wasting gas,” Prohaska said. “The biggest challenge is if several taxis [and] riders use the same app and it confuses the taxi drivers.”

However, CAS sophomore Manel Sentouhi does not think the app is necessary.

“I feel like people will abuse the app,” Sentouhi said. “People can hail a taxi even when they are not ready or [don’t] even need a cab. Actually going out and hailing a cab when a person is ready is more efficient for both the taxi driver and the customer.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Dec.11 print edition. Kayana Jean-Philippe is deputy city-state editor. Email her at kjeanphilippe@nyunews.com.

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