Taxicab Confessions: Notice and Report the Brooklyn Kill-Switch

I have to begin this week’s posts with something non-political but important. Those expecting, “Curse those Republicans!”, &c &c, come back tomorrow!

My dear New Yorkers,

Have you ever tried to take a taxi from Manhattan, to Brooklyn? Although city law requires a driver to take you anywhere you ask within the Five Boroughs, many drivers will refuse to make this simple drive, even with the promise of plenty of return fares, if you know the areas. I’ve had friends with newborn babies turned down by taxis, and forced to wait in the cold, for the simple crime of living in Park Slope. Of course, if you write down the driver’s number, you can get them fired. But who actually follows through on that?

Wiser taxi drivers have apparently devised a way to escape the non-trivial risk of termination: faked car trouble. This lesson was given me by a taxi driver who clearly thought that my suit, Wall Street address, and pickup spot by my midtown law firm meant I’d be cool making fun of Brooklynites. I played along to hear the story, but I’m not.

In brief, regular cab drivers have apparently built and installed switches that will choke the cab’s engine. Surreptitiously switched, when given a Brooklyn destination, the driver can take the fare, start driving, but eventually point to the by-now-indicated “Check Engine” light and weird motor noises as seemingly objective reasons to eject the unsuspecting customer. Then the driver can take the fare thus far (at least the $2.50 initial fare), drive around the corner, flip off the switch, and head on to customers more helpful for the bottom line.

My driver demonstrated the switch: it works like a charm. His was a small button to the left of the gear switch, indicated by a green LED light.

Here’s the kicker. I was given this demonstration on my way home after a late night at work. So… confused, and my mind exhausted…  I forgot to write down the driver’s number. If you’re a victim of this trick, rather than the recipient of a gleeful demonstration, please report the driver. Clever lawbreaking is always fun to hear about, but people like this guy give our city a bad name.

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4 comments

  1. Free markets at work! Plus, he’s a Muslim or something.

    Welcome back… ;)

  2. Wow, I never knew we were neighbors in Park Slope.

    I did have a time where, a driver was angry at us for making him do 3 stops when he said he only had to do 2. Then my drunk friend was aggravating about it and other things during the whole trip. I got out at the first stop (far away from home), just to make sure there were no problems. I got a text that the car broken down after I left the driver with my belligerent friend.

    COINCIDENCE?!

    Other than that, I haven’t really had problems with it.

  3. I’ve only been to New York once, for about 24 hours, when I was a kid. So I have one burning question about all this: why all the rigamarole to avoid driving to Brooklyn? And what’s bad about Park Slope? Do these places eat taxis or something?

    1. Taxi cabs don’t like driving to Brooklyn because it’s a longer drive that has a less likely chance of finding someone new to pick up. Meaning they have to drive around longer without finding a new person to pick up, or, sometimes making them drive all the way back to Manhattan without getting a fare.

      And there is nothing wrong with Park Slope, it’s perfect ;)

      New York Magazine says it’s the best place in NY to live: http://nymag.com/realestate/neighborhoods/2010/65374/index1.html

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