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english speaking cab drivers in NYC

 
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New York City ended the requirement that cab/taxi drivers take an English test to get licensed. (source)

This makes me sad. The stated reasons are that knowing English is too high a barrier to entry that Uber doesn't require it.  The test wasn't a ton of English as cab drivers sometimes spoke pretty poor English. But more importantly some cab drivers pretended not to speak English to not take you (if they didn't like where you wanted to go) or to go the wrong way and run the meter higher so it cost more. I worry that not even having a minimal English requirement will make this worse.

Last year, I had the following discussion with a green cab driver. (Which is like a regular cab except it can only pick up in certain places and typically belongs to a car service):
  • Me: I'd like to go to <town> and <cross streets>
  • Cabbie: I don't know where that is.
  • Me: No problem. Just take <name of highway>
  • Cabbie: I don't know where that is.
  • Me: (thinking. yeah right, this is a major highway less than half a mile away). Ok. Go straight 2 blocks and make a right at the coner
  • Cabbie: I don't understand.
  • Me: Go straight 2 blocks and make a right at the coner
  • Cabbie: I don't understand.
  • Me: (got out of cab and called car service to complain while taking the next car in line. who also didn't want to take me but didn't put on act about not understanding)


  • I shudder to think how really not speaking English is going to add to this picture.
     
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    Don't cabs in NY have GPS?
    I once landed in Frankfurt. Told the cabbie the address (he was Arabic going by his accent, conversing with me in my Indian accent LOL). Fortunately I had a printout of my hotel address. He punched it in his GPS navigator and off we went.
     
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    London cabbies are required to know streets. In order to get a licence, they must recite the names of all streets between St Pancras Station and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane or wherever. They spend about three years riding round Central London on Sundays on tiny motorbikes with clipboards learning the way round. The usual name for that procedure is, “doing the Knowledge”.
     
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    Quite frankly, I am surprised that the driver went through that much trouble to refuse a fare. Since green cabs are also TLC vehicles, an easier response would have been to tell you something like "he can only take fares within 5 minutes, as he has a pickup from his dispatcher".

    [EDIT: Oh I see. You were on the taxi line. Yeah... those lines can take awhile to get to the front, and they may get picky on where they want to go]

    Henry
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    Maneesh Godbole wrote:Don't cabs in NY have GPS?


    They do. And if he doesn't follow the GPS? For example, a year or two ago the English speaking cab driver went West when I told him to go East on the highway.  He did it to see if I'd notice. And if not, he'd get paid more. I noticed and called him on it. I can't do this if they don't speak English or pretend not to.

    How long before we have driverless taxi cabs? They wouldn't need to know English and they wouldn't try to cheat you.
     
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    Campbell Ritchie wrote:London cabbies are required to know streets. In order to get a licence, they must recite the names of all streets between St Pancras Station and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane or wherever. They spend about three years riding round Central London on Sundays on tiny motorbikes with clipboards learning the way round. The usual name for that procedure is, “doing the Knowledge”.



    On the other hand when we took an Uber in London we asked the driver how he knew what roads to take and he told us he had to go the way the app in his dashboard told him to go.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    Of course at 5.00pm the app on the dashboard will know which streets have the most traffic?
    London cabbies must speak English because they always chat to the fare about everything under the sun.
     
    Paul Clapham
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    Campbell Ritchie wrote:Of course at 5.00pm the app on the dashboard will know which streets have the most traffic?



    Well, it was more like 10 am but I was dubious about the app as well, because we were in a street with a lot of traffic. But I suppose they call it the "Congestion Zone" for a reason.
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    Speaking of traffic, there's also the lie that "the highway you want to take is closed." Really? There's nothing about that anywhere online. Let's take it anyway. Hey, look at that. It miraculously re-opened.

    At least this isn't a problem at the airport where there is a dispatcher. I
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    How on earth do these people get licensed?
     
    Henry Wong
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    Campbell Ritchie wrote:How on earth do these people get licensed?



    To be fair, I don't think comparing a NYC taxi to a London Black Cab really works. Yes, it may take years to learn all the London streets, and get licensed, but I will speculate that the majority of drivers own their cars. And that they can make a long career out of it.

    In NYC, the majority of taxis are actually owned by companies, that rent out the cars. It is actually possible to lose money on a bad day for drivers. And many drivers just quit after a few years (or even months). If NYC made it that difficult to get a hack license, then there probably won't be enough drivers.

    Henry
     
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    Washington D.C. had the unusual approach that the city was divided into fare zones. Every time a cab crossed a zone boundary it was another tick on the meter. As a result some creative driving could occur as they took advantage of nipping across a sliver of zone - DC's street pattern is deliberately non-rectilinear which makes it easier to do things like that. The driver probably expected that I wasn't noticing, but actually since I wasn't paying, I didn't care. If that was the the worst thing that happened in Washington, the whole nation would be relieved.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    Henry Wong wrote:. . . I don't think comparing a NYC taxi to a London Black Cab really works. Yes, it may take years to learn all the London streets, and get licensed, but I will speculate that the majority of drivers own their cars. And that they can make a long career out of it. . . .

    They do (both). And I am sure a few can be as dishonest with strangers to London as anybody else. The fares are calculated strictly by distance, in multiples of 352 yards (I think) (=⅕ mile). But the fares are so high that most cabbies can make a good living without any fiddling. And there is nothing rectilinear about London streets; I live in just about the only rectilinear town in England, it is as well there aren't such zones. There are however zones in London for other forms of public transport, and it can be less expensive to travel round the outside of London than across central London. It is not only motorists who have to avoid the congestion charge area
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    I read in The Economist that Uber is complaining London (or England) requires both knowing English and a written test. Uber objects to the written test.
     
    Oh, sure, you could do that. Or you could eat some pie. While reading this tiny ad:
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