Everybody Needs a Little TLC

commissioner!So you want to be a taxi driver in New York City. You’re over 19 years old, you’ve gotten your chauffer’s license from the DMV, and you didn’t receive more than seven points on your driver’s license in the past year and a half. Great, now you just have to go through Commisioner Matthew W. Daus and the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC). TLC, founded in 1971, is responsible for the licensing and regulation of medallion (yellow) cabs, for-hire vehicles (car services), commuter vans, ambulettes, and certain luxury limos.

Would you like to join the ranks of the 46,409 TLC-licensed yellow cab drivers in New York City, or the 52,096 for-hire vehicle drivers? Well, what’s the difference, anyway? The most notable distinction is that yellow cabs can pick people up off the street, whereas car services must be called in advance. That’s right, that livery driver in the black Crown Vic slowing down to see if you need a ride is breaking the law. (In fact, yellow cab drivers are only legally allowed to solicit passengers from the driver’s seat and only with the words “taxi,” “cab” or “taxi cab.”) The medallions (basically just a sticker) are highly limited (13,237 to date) and sold to cabs by the city.

TLC Statistics on For-Hire Vehicles in New York City

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While there are stricter licensing requirements for medallion cabs than for-hire cars (for example, you’re technically required to be proficient in spoken and written English to drive a yellow cab) many requirements are the same for both. Whether you want to drive a medallion cab or a for-hire vehicle, you’ll be required to take a drug test upon application, and once hired, you’ll be expected to refrain from using drugs or alcohol within the six hours prior to your shift. You’ll also want to leave any weapons at home while on the job, be it your unregistered firearm or an “electronic dartgun, gravity knife, switchblade knife, canesword, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, metal knuckles, chuka stick, sandstick, slingshot, pilum ballistic knife, sand bag, sand club, wrist brace type slingshot, shirken, kung fu star, dagger, dangerous knife, dirk, razor, stiletto, imitation pistol.” And music-lovers beware: according to TLC, the right of the airwaves falls to the passenger. Under authority of the “reasonable request” bylaw, your passenger has the right to select what’s played on your audio equipment.

TLC also regulates the licensing of taxi/for-hire vehicle owners and dispatchers – providing guidelines from the moment you “hack-up,” or convert your car into a taxi, until the point where you decide to sell your car or franchise.

But say that BA in Liberal Studies lands you a high-paying gig that gives you the freedom to hail cabs rather than hack it on the night shift. You might still find TLC useful – on their website you can not only file consumer complaints and lost property inquiries, but you can commend especially standout taxi drivers. You’ll also be able to access the Passenger’s Bill Of Rights (yes, you have the right to decline to tip) and request records. To supplement your own watchful eye, in 2008 TLC implemented “Operation Secret Rider,” an undercover initiative to monitor driver compliance to customer service regulations.

You can go to the New York Taxi & Limousine Commission website for more information.

all images taken from the TLC website and Annual Report 2008

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