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MAP: See How Often Green Cabs Stop in Your Neighborhood

By Nigel Chiwaya | February 2, 2015 7:40am
 Green taxi pickups tend to be clustered in Northern Manhattan, the Queens waterfront and downtown Brooklyn, according to city data.
Green taxi pickups tend to be clustered in Northern Manhattan, the Queens waterfront and downtown Brooklyn, according to city data.
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DNAinfo/Nigel Chiwaya

NEW YORK CITY — The city's fleet of green taxis, created to improve transportation options in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs, doesn't serve New York's neighborhoods equally, DNAinfo New York has learned.

Boro Taxis, which launched in August 2013, are easy to find in such places as Washington Heights and Downtown Brooklyn, for example, but are scarce in Red Hook and Jamaica, according to DNAinfo's analysis of 11 months of trip data provided by the city.

Out of nearly 18,000 green cab trips on June 24, 2014, the most recent day for which data was available, more than 1,300 trips started in East Harlem's 10029 ZIP code, more than in any other part of the city, data show.

In contrast, more than 30 ZIP codes across the city saw just a single green taxi pickup that day. 

The data, which covers August 2013 to June 2014, was first made public by mapmaker Chris Whong and was also obtained by DNAinfo through a Freedom of Information Law request.

The neighborhoods with sparse coverage include Maspeth, Ozone Park, Jamaica, Bay Ridge, East New York and Red Hook, according to DNAinfo's analysis.

In Red Hook, Natisha McCoy, 40, said she would use the green cabs if they came to her subway-starved neighborhood more often. Her only public transit option is to cram into overcrowded buses, she said.

“Sometimes it’s good to be able to stand at the corner and grab a cab,” McCoy said. “You can’t do that here.”

The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission, which issues the green cab permits, is aware of the issue.

At a hearing about the program's expansion last June, TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said the agency expected coverage to increase as more permits were issued. The TLC has released 12,000 borough taxi permits for sale so far and expects to reach 18,000 green cabs on the street by the end of this year.

"As cars have been added, we've seen them spreading out," Joshi said at the hearing. "It's our expectation that with the addition of additional cars, we'll continue that spread-out of service.”

TLC spokesman Greg Gordon added last week that the TLC knows "there are areas within the city where service is still sparse, but as more Boro Taxis come onto the road, service will continue to spread."

That prediction is backed up by data.

DNAinfo mapped out approximately 10,000 pickups from the program's first, sixth and 11th months and found that the cabs moved farther out into the boroughs as time passed. The South Bronx became more of a pickup hub, as did Park Slope and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.

Michael O’Loughlin, director of the taxi advocacy group Cab Riders United, believes the city should roll out even more green cabs because the program provides a vital service to outer-borough residents.

"We think that the numbers of Boro Taxis should be sufficient to meet the demand in underserved parts of the city," O’Loughlin said. The cabs "are growing to become part of the overall transportation ecosystem."

An increased rollout might not be enough to improve coverage citywide. Several drivers who spoke to DNAinfo said it's tough to serve the more residential parts of the outer boroughs.

"We can go to Ozone Park or Flushing, but it’s impossible to pick up customers there," said green cab driver Bodh Raj, 60, about the more suburban neighborhoods with minimal foot traffic. "We tried many times."

This article is the first in a series examining how well the Boro Taxi is serving New York City's neighborhoods. Read Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.