TLC Considering New Roof Light System

By Jill Colvin on October 12, 2011 7:09am | Updated on October 12, 2011 10:10am

The TLC is considering redesigning its on-duty lights.
The TLC is considering redesigning its on-duty lights.
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Flickr/Flickr/Alex E. Proimos

MANHATTAN — Just like getting in before you tell the driver where you’re going, hailing a cab in Manhattan is an insiders’ art.

It’s not enough to scan the yellow masses for a tell-tale light that signals a cab is looking for a fare. Would-be passengers also have to make sure they’re looking at the right light (the one in the middle) and not the off-duty lights on either side.

But the Taxi and Limousine Commission is now considering a plan to simplify the system because so many passengers assume that any light on on the roof means a taxi is free.

“Although some passengers understand the lighting system, others, especially visitors, are confused by it,” explained the TLC.

The commission sent out a survey Tuesday asking residents to weigh in on whether they'd like to see a single light system, similar to the one in London where an on light means a taxi is free.

Under the current system there are, in fact, four messages that roof lights can send.

If the medallion light is on and the off-duty lights off, the cab is on-duty and available to hail. If both lights are off, it’s on-duty but already taken. If the medallion number is off, but the off-duty light on, the cab is off-duty, and occupied with a passenger. Finally, if both sets of lights are on it means the cab is off-duty, but may pick you up if you’re going the driver's way.

“Especially from far away, some passengers think it is hard to see whether the taxi is off-duty or if it is available,” the TLC wrote. “What results is that some passengers repeatedly try to hail off-duty taxis.”

If you want to share your thoughts about the idea or potential other options, you can fill in the survey here or mail your thoughts to Dawn Miller, 33 Beaver Street, 22nd Floor, New York, NY 10004.

The TLC's next public meeting is scheduled for Thurs. Oct 20.

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