Yellow Cabs as Red Corpuscles


Data obtained from New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission highlights the importance of yellow cabs in the city’s transportation infrastructure. In 2011, for example, there were nearly 180 million cab rides. In this paper, we provide detailed visualizations of these numerous journeys. Using a random sample, we also develop several relevant economic metrics. For example, we find that nearly half of all rides were taken by a single passenger traveling short distances. In contrast, out-of-pocket costs faced by passengers averaged less than $6 per mile, with 90% paying less than $8 per mile, even when the social value of the city’s roads is highest. From a city planner’s perspective, the current fare structure for yellow cabs may not be optimal. Finally, we propose a statistical method to analyze dynamic flow patterns of yellow-cab rides that can ultimately be extended to a multivariate model.


In Manhattan, yellow taxicabs (cabs) seem ubiquitous. They appear in almost all of the numerous movies filmed in New York City (NYC), and an award-winning situation comedy was devoted to the cabbie profession. In NYC, the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) licenses all yellow cabs through a medallion system, which allows it to regulate fares and standards. TLC reports that there were 13,237 licensed yellow cabs on NYC’s roads in 2011.1 Each yellow cab typically operates on a shift schedule with two or more different drivers per day, which permits a single cab to be in near-continuous daily operation.

This article was co-authored by Huy T. Vo, Center for Urban Science & Progress, New York University.

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Topics:  Infrastructure, Taxi Cabs

Published In: Transportation Updates

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