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It is estimated that 40% of vehicle miles traveled by New York taxis occurs while cruising and not carrying passengers (source: http://www.nyc.gov/html/om/pdf/ccp_report041007.pdf). Taxicab cruising accounts for an enormous amount of greenhouse gas emissions—as well as a substantial portion of taxicab operating costs. Taxi cruising also contributes to traffic congestion.
Apps exist in which users can summon taxis, but these apps do not appear to have significantly decreased taxi cruising.
One idea, applicable in busy areas of Manhattan, would be to require taxis to wait in designated taxi stands for fares to approach them. A large number of taxi stands would need to be set aside—perhaps every other block on north-south streets, with each stand having room for 2-3 taxis. Drivers would be permitted to drive directly to another station, after waiting a specified number of minutes.
The waiting areas could have signal lights to summon taxis if none were waiting. Authorities could experiment with transmitters at the stations, which persons needing a taxi could activate to summon nearby taxis. Taxi drivers would press an “accept” button and the first driver to press the button would get the fare, thus avoiding multiple taxis converging on one passenger.
Perhaps an app could be developed for the-taxi stand concept.
Creative solutions beyond those suggested here are needed.