NYC Taxis To Finally Clear Up The Whole On/Off Duty Thing

For years, people trying to hail a cab in New York City have been confused by trying to decode the many permutations of taxis’ “Off Duty” lights. If those words are illuminated, the cab may still be available, but only if the medallion number light is also on — and if you happen to be heading in the direction the cab is driving. It’s confusing enough to NYC residents, and downright confounding to most visitors. But that’s all about to be cleared up.

“It’s far too confusing for the average rider,” Taxi & Limousine commissioner David Yassky told the Daily News about the current system.

Thus, starting in the fall, cabs will replace the confusing signs with ones that clearly indicate only one of two options: available or not.

The TLC came up with the idea last October and asked for public feedback, which was overwhelmingly in favor of the change.

TLC says it’s lights out for cabs’ confusing on-/off-duty codes [NY Daily News]


Edit Your Comment

  1. sir_eccles says:

    Going to Brooklyn? fuggedaboutit!

  2. Cat says:

    Now, could we please get similar signs installed on the hookers? It’s far too confusing for the average rider.

  3. abruke says:

    Can there also be a sign that alerts you if the cab stinks or not? I’d pay extra for not having to sit in a cab that smells like the elephant house at the Central Park Zoo.

    • james says:

      Clearly you’ve never been to the Central Park Zoo. No elephants there.
      But they do have penguins, if you want odor. :)

  4. milkcake says:

    How do we report cabs that refuse to go to the destination?

    • DarthCoven says:


    • caradrake says:

      Wait, what? Why would a cabbie refuse to take you somewhere? It might be obvious I’ve never lived in a big city, or had to catch a cab in a big city, but this is just mind boggling. If you’re going to pay, who would refuse to take your money?

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        The fares are heavily regulated and only in some circumstances can they charge for a round trip. If the cabbie is going to have to return empty he won’t make as much money than he would waiting for a local fare.

      • Jawaka says:

        Some may not feel comfortable driving in dangerous high crime areas.

        If you wouldn’t want your mother driving in these areas then its safe to assume that others wouldn’t want to drive there either.

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      Cabbies don’t like going to outer boroughs because they can’t pick up fares on the return trip, so it’s a lot of lost time and money to them.

    • veronykah says:

      There is a medallion # and either a number in the cab to call or call 311.
      I took a cabbie to taxi court for exactly that behavior. He was IN Brooklyn and refused to take me home to my apt, which was also IN Brooklyn.
      He lost.

  5. Altman says:

    I hate NYC Cabbies. No matter where I seem to be going, whether within Manhattan or to an airport or anywhere else. I always seem to get at least 1 cabbie who will refuse to take me to my destination before I can find one who will. Such jerks.

    • DarthCoven says:

      Stop being a minority and you’ll get a cab much more easily.

    • Altman says:

      Oh, and I live in Philly, that sort of thing never happens here

      • imasqre says:

        Bc in Philadelphia it is impossible to even find a cab unless you are right in center city on the bus lines (specially by that Walgreens was my luck spot).

        I broke my lease a month early to get back to NYC. Philadelphia is a horrible place. Not only does everything close at 9, I actually felt so unsafe there I bought pepper spray, and I’ve lived in Bushwick.

        The fact that Philly’s definition of a flash-mob is a group of kids who beat and rob people, is the perfect example of the society there.

    • Trance says:

      I love cabbies. I take cabs all the time for work and I always have the most interesting conversations with the drivers. I think cab drivers have a horrible job, don’t get paid very well for it and have to put up with a lot of really annoying people. I am always nice to my driver and, in return, they are generally very nice to me too.

      There are, of course, some cabbies that are mean and either don’t want to take you to your destination or try to take you the long way there. Those cabbies ruined the profession for the rest of the cabbies. People get into cabs expecting the driver to be a jerk, and pre-emptively are not friendly to the driver.

    • Downfall says:

      Get in before telling them your destination. If they refuse, then threaten to call 311. They can’t refuse to take you anywhere in the 5 boroughs.

  6. Straspey says:

    Of course that will do nothing to stop the age-old practice of “On-Duty” cabbies ignoring your hail as they pass you by because you’re not going in their preferred direction — or watching an “Off-Duty” cabby pass you by (as he should) only to stop a few feet farther down the block to pick up a fare who IS going his way.

    Unless you’re from out of town, or rarely take cabs – reading those roof-top signs is really not all that complicated.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Out of towners…. which NYC sees so few of….

    • AllanG54 says:

      It’s illegal in NYC to pick someone up if the off duty light is on…just saying. The driver can get fined and lose his hack license for three days. But of course there’s not a whole lot of enforcement from the NYC Taxi and Limo Commission so everyone gets away with it.

    • RueLaLaLa says:

      How can they tell before they pick you up which way you are planning on going? Maybe I’m missing something?

  7. TinaBringMeTheAx says:

    I’ve lived in NYC for over 50 years, and I have known since I was in Junior High School what the different lighting scenarios are:

    Medallion number lit: Available and I cannot refuse to take you anywhere in the five boroughs or Newark airport (I think).
    Nothing lit: I have a passenger and am unavailable.
    Off duty lit: I am off duty, leave me alone.
    Off duty and medallion number lit: I am technically off duty, but if you’re going in the same direction, I may decide to take you, but I can refuse.

    • Deep Cover says:

      Hmmm…my experience has been a tad bit different…more like:

      Medallion number lit: I’m available just as long as your not a young black male trying to go uptown.

      • Deep Cover says:

        your = you’re

      • Beefsteak says:

        You know how many times myself or my friends have run from a fare? A bunch, It’s very easy. You get to your destination and you just book. the cabbie is screwed. Late at night, I’m picking up a older businessman or woman over a young black male 100% of the time. Black guys are fast as fuck! No way you can catch them. It’s common sense, you pick up the fare most likely to pay and you’d rather that fare go to a nice neighborhood instead of Brownsville, BK. I know a few cab drivers and they get paid shit. It‚Äôs $100 -$120/night just to rent the cab, you have to pay for gas and tolls yourself. If you get a couple runners each night, you could lose more than half of your days pay. Sit in their seat first before you call them all racist.

    • GOInsanity says:

      You claim to know what the different lighting scenarios mean, but then in your definitions have to use “I think.” So what you’re really saying is that you’ve lived in NYC for 50 years and still aren’t quite sure what the different light combos mean. In other words, it’s confusing to residents and completely indeciferable to out of towners.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Actually, they’re required to take you to any destination in NYC, Nassau County, Westchester County, or Newark Airport.

  8. NeverLetMeDown says:

    Glad they’re doing it. Makes it easier to spot an available cab at a distance. Fundamentally, I don’t care whether they’re currently carrying someone or off duty – they’re either available, or they’re not.

  9. shinazzle23 says:

    Now Black People won’t have to wonder if that cab is really off duty or they’re just being ignored.

  10. FLConsumer says:

    I’m surprised people had trouble with this concept to begin with. I’m only in NYC 6-10 times a year but even I knew that medallion # lit = available.

    I did used to wonder why they didn’t make the off-duty lights a different color so you could tell from a distance whether the cab was available or off-duty.