Taxi Driver

Reader Nick Denton sends us word that the taxi lines in laissez-faire America are rubble. However, in the fascist dictatorship of London, the livery runs with a ruthless efficiency that would make Fredrick Winslow Taylor cream his galoshes.

From whence comes this clockwork? Have free-market forces made sweet, beautiful collusion? Or is this the result of top-down bureaucratic genius?

    “Have you noticed the dysfunction US taxi ranks are? One line, moves painfully slowly. At any time, there are plenty of people waiting, and often plenty of cabs. Market failure.

    At Paddington Station in London, on the other hand, an example of how things should be done. Six marked slots for six caps. Six groups of passengers are ushered from the line. You, to slot 1, you, to slot 2, etc. In a synchronized ballet of taxi and passenger, the entire fleet picks up and sets off with an efficiency that puts JFK – and every other US airport – to shame. Paddington must manage a throughput of passengers at least three times that of one of the JFK terminals.”

It’s been said before and t’will be said again, if there’s one thing Brits know, it’s how to queue.

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  1. WMeredith says:

    This is how they do it in Vegas and it’s badass. Last time I went, my plane got in at peak hours during the busy season and I was in a line of about 300 freshly deplaned tourists waiting for a taxi. I was in a taxi

  2. Gari N. Corp says:

    Tis true. The Paddington taxis do work pretty well, although the system is necessary because of the lack of space outside the station – just two lanes. I was catching a cab at JFK last night and the four-lanes encouraged the drivers, an admittedly unruly bunch compared to the Knowledge-trained London cabbies, to pull up wherever they wanted.

    Denton, presumably rocking to the rugged individualism of his adopted home, also neglects to mention another aspect of Paddington’s success – cab sharing. This vile socialistic imposition is used on one of the two lines, the other being used to service Ayn Rand’s crew. You pay a fixed rate to go to various zip/post codes, about half the likely metered fare, and also tend to get to the front of the line very quickly.

    I tried it the other week, and ended up having a delightful discussion about coastal defence with my fellow travellers.

  3. billhelm says:

    I hate to say it WMeredith, but Vegas can suck too. I’ve waited for 1-2 hours for a cab there more than once. Try going during the first weekend of the NCAA tourney on a wednesday or thursday night.

  4. Jesse says:

    Yeah, Vegas rules. I arrived on a flight this past Friday at 10 p.m., and the line was literally a mile long — six huge switchbacks. And I got a cab in 20 minutes. It was incredibly efficient.

  5. matto says:

    Tell that crumpet-munching Denton to try finding a Vegas-ish good time in jolly old limey-land! All the cab organization in the world doesn’t make up for boiled beef.

  6. Das Ubergeek says:

    Yes, but the difference is, other than at the airports you can hail a cab in New York with nothing more than an upraised finger (no, not THAT finger)… unless it’s raining, or dark, or you’re anything other than lily-white, or you happen to be outside the driver’s ex-wife’s building, or you’re not going anywhere the driver wants to go, or you have luggage… never mind.

  7. etinterrapax says:

    They do it this way at the Minneapolis airport, too. The skycap told me that it was a way of ensuring that every cab company got an equal shot at airport fares.

  8. WMeredith says:

    in less than 5 minutes. They had about 15 caps or stalls or whatever.

    (Just thought I’d finish up my post. It seems to have been truncated.)