Taxicabs are, and always will be, an iconic part of New York. We rely on them for everything from zipping us to that 5 a.m. flight at JFK to transporting our haul after a Trader Joe’s run. They’re even there to drive us to the hospital should we suddenly go into labor at Duane Reade (true story, folks). They are part of our everyday routine, but how much do we really know about them? Here, seven fun facts about our favorite mode of transportation.
1. New York City has a little more than 13,000 yellow taxis. Each taxi makes nearly 800 trips per month.
2. The first taxis in the U.S. were painted red and green, despite their now-famous yellow hue (Dupont M6284 yellow, to be exact). It only became a law in the 1960s that all medallion taxis had to be the same color. Why yellow, though? John Hertz (yes, the same one from the rental-car empire) opened the first Yellow Cab Company in Chicago in the early 1900s. He wanted to “unify his fleet” and make them stand out, so he had a local university conduct a study to figure out which color would be most noticeable from a distance. Yellow it is.
3. You can hail a taxi at pretty much any time of day. Yup, even during shift changes and rush hour. The secret? Go to a gas station where they fill up or a taxi garage so you can catch all the drivers heading to the streets after a shift change. You’re welcome.
4. Yellow taxi drivers have gotten a few perks since the onset of Uber. The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade opened a driver resource center to help advocate for yellow taxi drivers and better serve them versus the ride-sharing apps. The center offers free classes in defensive driving and assisting handicapped passengers, and even provides lawyers to help drivers contest parking tickets.
5. It wasn’t until 2008 that taxi TV screens appeared in the back of cabs. This allowed users to swipe their Amex and play a round of Jeopardy!while doing so. The first ad to run on those screens was for Corcoran Realty.
6. They’re the stars of countless cinematic moments. Taxis are so iconic to New York City that the entertainment industry can’t get away from them. Movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Godzilla and Taxi Driver all feature unforgettable scenes that take place in a cab.
7. Someone turned a cab into an Airbnb. In 2016, an authentic minivan taxi from 2002 was listed as a “vacation rental” on Airbnb by stand-up comedian Jonathan Powley. It was located in a parking lot in Long Island City, had enough room for a full-size mattress and cost only $39 a night. Definitely not your average accommodations, but how many people can say they’ve slept in the back of a taxi…on purpose?