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Taxicab, short forms taxi or cab, is a type of public transport for a single passenger, or small group of passengers, typically for a non-shared ride. A taxicab is a vehicle for hire which conveys passengers between locations of their choice. (In most other modes of public transport, the pick-up and drop-off locations are determined by the service provider, not by the passenger.)

Although types of vehicles and methods of regulation, hiring, dispatching, and negotiating payment differ significantly from country to country, some common characteristics exist.


[edit] History and etymology

Horse-drawn for-hire hackney carriage services began operating in both Paris and London in the early 17th century. Royal proclamations in both cities regulated the number of carriages - the first example of taxicab regulation. In the 19th century, Hansom cabs largely replaced the older designs because of their improved speed and safety.

Although battery-powered vehicles enjoyed a brief success in Paris, London, and New York in the 1890s, the 1891 invention by German Wilhelm Bruhn of the taximeter (the familiar mechanical and now often electronic device that calculates the fare in most taxicabs) ushered in the modern taxi. (The taxi in taximeter is originating from the Greek word TAXIDEYO meaning to travel. The first modern meter-equipped taxicab was the Daimler Victoria, built by Gottlieb Daimler in 1897; the first motorized taxi company began operating in Stuttgart the same year.

Petrol powered taxicabs began operating in Paris in 1899, in London in 1903, and in New York in 1907. The New York taxicabs were imported from France by businessperson Harry N. Allen, who adapted the French word taxi-mètre and coined the word "taxicab" to describe the vehicles he was importing. In time, the shortened term "taxi" came into common usage. (Allen was also the first person to paint his taxicabs yellow, after learning that yellow is the colour most easily seen from a distance.)

The yellow taxicabs of New York City.

Taxicabs proliferated around the world in the early 20th century. The first major innovation after the invention of the taximeter occurred in the late 1940s, when two-way radios first appeared in taxicabs. Radios enabled taxicabs and dispatch offices to communicate and serve customers more efficiently than previous methods, such as using callboxes. The next major innovation occurred in the 1980s, when computer assisted dispatching was first introduced.

There has generally been a legal struggle concerning the certification of motor vehicles to be taxicabs, which take much more wear than a private car does. In London, they were additionally required to meet stringent specifications, for example, as concerns turn radius, which resulted for a time in having only one make legally usable. In the US, in the 1930s the cabs were often DeSotos or Packards. General Motors offered a specialized vehicle for a time, named the General. The firm Checker came into existence then, and stopped manufacturing cabs in the early 1980s. Its cars were specially built to carry "double dates." But now New York City requires that all taxicabs be ordinary cars. They are usually large Fords. In the 1960s in Europe, Mercedes Benz and Peugeot offered diesel taxicabs. This form of engine is now quite common there.

[edit] Vehicles

Taxi service is typically provided by automobiles, but various human powered vehicles (such as the rickshaw) and animal powered vehicles (such as the Hansom cab) or even boats (such as water taxis or gondolas) are also used or have been used historically. In Western Europe it is not uncommon for expensive cars such as Mercedes-Benz to be the taxi of choice. Often this decision is based upon the perceived reliability of, and warranty offered with these vehicles. These taxi-service vehicles are often equipped with four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines and low levels of equipment, and are not considered luxury cars. (This often surprises Americans, who are used to seeing only the upmarket trims and associate Mercedes-Benz cars with luxury.)

In Australia, taxis are mainly Ford Falcons and less commonly, Holden Commodores. Kia Carnivals are becoming increasingly popular due to the low price of these vehicles. There are premium operators who mainly operate on Ford Fairlanes and Holden Statesmans. Almost all Australian taxis run on LPG.

Taxis in less developed places can be a completely different experience, such as the ancient French cars typically found in Cairo, however starting March, 2006 new yellow modern taxi entered the service operated by various private companies. Taxis differ in other ways as well: London's black cabs have a large compartment beside the driver for storing bags, while many fleets of regular taxis also include wheelchair accessible taxis among their numbers (see below). Although taxis have traditionally been sedans, minivan and even SUV taxis are becoming increasingly common. In many cities, limousines operate as well, usually in competition with taxis and at higher fares.

[edit] Wheelchair-accessible taxicabs

Minivan wheelchair taxicab in Vancouver BC

In recent years, some companies have been adding specially modified vehicles capable of transporting wheelchair-using passengers to their fleets. Such taxicabs are variously called accessible taxis, wheelchair- or wheelchair-accessible taxicabs, modified taxicabs, and so on.

Wheelchair taxicabs are most often vans or minivans which have undergone special modifications. Wheelchair-using passengers are loaded, with the help of the driver, via a lift or, more commonly, a ramp, at the rear of the vehicle. The wheelchair is secured using various systems, commonly including some type of belt and clip combination, or wheel locks. Most wheelchair taxicabs are capable of transporting only one wheelchair-using passenger at a time, though most can accommodate up to four additional able-bodied passengers.

Wheelchair taxicabs are part of the regular fleet in most cases, and so are not reserved exclusively for the use of wheelchair users. They are often used by able-bodied people who need to transport luggage, small items of furniture, animals, and other items. Because of this, and since only a small percentage of the average fleet is modified, wheelchair users must often wait for significantly longer periods when calling for a cab, and flagging a modified taxicab on the street is much more difficult.

[edit] Livery

Image:Yellow cabs.jpg
Yellow taxicabs in Kolkata, India.

Originally, hackney carriage companies were distinguished from each other by their drivers' livery (uniforms) and by the colours of their carriages. For example, at the end of the 19th century in Paris, Compagnie Generale carriages were painted blue, while those of Abeille were painted green ("The Paris Cabman"). During the early years of the twentieth century, private cars were usually black because paints of other colours were not durable. Taxis were the exception, as they would be touched up or worn out. Around the world today, taxi companies are still distinguished by the way their cars are painted.

[edit] North America

In the United States, many older taxi companies are named according to their paint schemes. Thus, "Yellow Cabs" are painted yellow, Checker taxis have a distinctive black-and-white or black-and-yellow checkerboard stripe around their bodies, "Blue and White Cabs" might have blue bodies and white roofs, and "Black Top" and "Red Top Cabs" have black and red roofs respectively. In the 1920s, a famous company named "Brown and White" lost a lawsuit to prevent other taxi drivers from painting their cars these colors.

In Orange County, Florida, many of the taxicabs are painted orange.

Mexico City's ubiquitous VW Type 1 (Beetle) cabs were green and white (being firstly yellow) by law until early 2003. However, the tiny cars had been displaced by bigger four-door sedans, the Nissan Tsuru, a Sentra MkIII based saloon and recognized for their red/white (or silver) body colour. No VW are coloured this way anymore. Matchbox released a scale model of the VW taxi in 2004, numbered 31.

[edit] Asia

Taxicabs of Hong Kong have three colours based on service area. Red for urban Hong Kong, green for New Territories and blue for Lantau Island. The colours are to prevent service imbalance between less densely populated areas and urban centres of the territory.

[edit] Europe

In another sense of livery, the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers became a City of London Livery Company in 2004.

In Germany, taxis are beige, a look that was officially stipulated by law as light ivory-colored in 1971. In 2005 this legal restriction was lifted, but most taxi drivers associations and companies still prefer the unified look and visibility of beige.

[edit] Regulation

Both taxicabs and drivers are regulated to varying degrees in different places, from free-for-all to highly restrictive licensing schemes. In many countries, the number of taxis and the areas where they may operate are strictly controlled by a regulatory body. In regulated systems, a person must purchase a license or medallion if he or she wishes to own or operate a taxicab. In many jurisdictions, both owners and non-owning drivers of taxis are also tested and licensed by the police or the regulatory body. Police checks and more extensive background checks, training courses and chaperones are often used when drivers are asked to deal with special needs customers on a regular basis. See Taxicabs around the world for information about regulatory regimes in particular countries.

[edit] Hiring

See also: Taxi stand

Taxis are often "hailed" or "flagged" on the street, either by a passenger as a taxi is driving by, or at a taxi stand (sometimes also called a "cab stand" or "hack stand," also "taxi rank" or "cab rank"). Hailing is common in large cities with dense urban populations like New York, Tokyo, London or Shanghai. Taxi stands are usually located at airports, railway stations, and hotels, as well as at other places where large numbers of passengers are likely to be found. In some places—Japan, for example—taxi stands are arranged according to the size of the taxis, so that large- and small-capacity cabs line up separately. Passengers also commonly call a central dispatch office for taxis. Private hire vehicles can only be hired from the dispatch office, and must be assigned each fare by the office by radio or phone. Picking up passengers off the street can lead to suspension and revocation of the driver's taxi license and prosecution.

[edit] Dispatching

The activity of taxi fleets is usually monitored and controlled by a central office, which provides dispatching, accounting, and human resources services to one or more taxi companies. Taxi owners and drivers usually communicate with the dispatch office through either a 2-way radio or a computer terminal (called a mobile data terminal). Before the innovation of radio dispatch in the 1950s, taxi drivers would use a callbox—a special telephone at a taxi stand—to contact the dispatch office.

When a customer calls for a taxi, a trip is dispatched by either radio or computer to the most suitable cab. The most suitable cab may either be the one closest to the pick-up address (often determined by GPS coordinates nowadays) or the one that was the first to book in to the "zone" surrounding the pickup address. Cabs are sometimes dispatched from their taxi stands; a call to "Top of the 2" means that the first cab in line at stand #2 is supposed to pick someone up.

In offices using radio dispatch, taxi locations are often tracked using magnetic "pegs" on a "board"—a metal sheet with an engraved map of taxi zones. In computerized dispatch, the status of taxis is tracked by the computer system.

Taxi frequencies are generally licensed in duplex pairs. One frequency is used for the dispatcher to talk to the cabs, and a second frequency is used to the cabs to talk back. This means that the drivers generally cannot talk to each other. Some cabs have a CB radio in addition to the company radio so they can speak to each other.

In the United States, there is a Taxicab Radio Service with pairs assigned for this purpose. A taxi company can also be licensed in the Business Radio Service. Business frequencies in the UHF range are also licensed in pairs to allow for repeaters, though taxi companies usually use the pair for duplex communications.

Some companies don't operate their own radio system and instead subscribe to an Specialized Mobile Radio system. The conventional radios are most suited to companies that operate within the local area and have a high volume of radio traffic. The SMR is more commonly used by black car services that cover a wider area, and smaller companies who use less airtime and don't want to run their own radio systems. With the advent of Public Data Networks in the 1990s, operators are beginning to use PDA's and advanced mobile phones for dispatching and tracking functions in lieu of the traditional radio. Some small car services don't use a dispatcher at all. Instead the customers' calls are forwarded to the cell phones of whichever drivers are on duty at the time.

[edit] Fares

For the distance travelled, fares for taxis are usually higher than for other forms of public transport (bus, tram, metro, minicab, train). The fare often does not depend on the number of people travelling together in a taxi. Sometimes there is a system where strangers share a taxi and fares are per person. Fares are usually calculated according to a combination of distance and waiting time, and are measured by a taximeter ("meter" for short and the origin of the word "taxi"). Instead of a metered fare, passengers sometimes pay a flat fare. In some countries, when demand is high—for instance, late at night—a taxi will pick up whoever offers the highest fare.

[edit] Navigation

Inside Japanese taxicab in Kyoto with GPS navigation on board.

Most experienced taxi drivers who have been working in the same city or region for a while would be expected to know the most important streets and places where their customers might want to go. However, to aid the process of manual navigation and the taxi driver's memory (and the customer's as well at times) a cab driver is usually equipped with a detailed roadmap of the area in which they work. There is also an increasing use of GPS driven navigational systems in the more wealthy countries around the world.

In London, despite the complex and haphazard road layout, such aids have only recently been employed by a small number of 'black cab' taxi (as opposed to minicab) drivers. Instead, they are required to undergo a demanding process of learning and testing called The Knowledge. This typically takes around three years and equips them with a detailed command of 25,000 streets within central London, major routes outside this area, and all buildings and other destinations to which passengers may ask to be taken.

[edit] Pollution concerns

A project, designed at understanding exposure to air pollution in an urban environment and looking at five transport methods for travelling across London, was carried out by a team from Imperial College London and the Health and Safety Laboratory, Buxton.

The results, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment in January 2006, showed that the level of pollution that people are exposed to differs according to the mode of transport that they use. The most risky method of transport was the back seat of a taxicab, followed by travelling by bus, cycling, walking, with a private car exposing people to the lowest amount of pollution.<ref>"Taking A Taxi Could Increase Your Exposure To Pollution", Science Daily, January 11, 2006</ref>

[edit] International Trade Association

Established in 1917, the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) is a non-profit trade association of and for the private passenger transportation industry. The membership spans the globe to include 1,100 taxicab companies, executive sedan and limousine services, airport shuttle fleets, non-emergency medical transportation companies, and paratransit services.

[edit] References


[edit] See also

The cast of Taxi, a television show on Taxi Cabbies

[edit] External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

da:Hyrevogn de:Taxi el:Ταξί es:Taxi eo:Taksio fa:تاکسی fr:Taxi ko:택시 id:Taksi it:Taxi (trasporto) he:מונית lt:Taksi nl:Taxi (vervoer) ja:タクシー no:Drosje ug:تاكسى pl:Taksówka pt:Táxi ru:Такси simple:Taxi sl:Taksi fi:Taksi sv:Taxi ur:ٹیکسی



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