If you’ve ever felt that the fare payment technologies in New York taxis were a little behind the times, you’re not alone. Clunky, confusing and with a digital display that looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1985, few will mourn the demise of the old fare meters (even though they are kinda cool looking). The entire system is loaded in favor of potentially unscrupulous cab drivers, with very little recourse for passengers who suspect they’re being scammed.
Happily, that demise is now under way. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission is rolling out a pilot program that will bring the iconic cabs into the Uber Age by installing GPS-based fare meters in 1,000 vehicles.
For residents and tourists alike, the introduction of the pilot is a welcome move. Currently, the 13,500 taxi cabs roaming the streets of the Big Apple rely on an unwieldy combination of devices that track the number of times a wheel turns, and how long the cars stay in idle. Ultimately, it is hoped that all NYC cabs will be fitted with GPS and mobile payment systems contained on a single smartphone or tablet, replacing the assortment of outmoded technologies currently installed.
The move is long overdue, as New York cabs - and indeed, city taxis around the world - come to terms with the exploding popularity of Lyft, Uber, and other app-based ride-hailing services, which typically allow users to dictate their own routes (thereby eliminating the nefarious practice of longhauling) and, crucially, rate drivers based on the quality of the experience. These services have given the taxi industry a shake up - and it’s finally beginning to wake up.
Bidding farewell to the taximeters and credit card readers will be easy for most New Yorkers, but even more pleasing to some is the removal of the much-loathed Taxi TV. The 12-hour ad loops first appeared in 2007; in 2011, it was second only to extortionate fares when passengers were asked to rate the worst elements of using a cab.