NYC Taxi Mysteries – Why All Cabs Are Yellow?

Petr Novák

If you hail a cab in New York, it’s almost guaranteed to be yellow. The city boasts 13,587 official taxis, with their numbers capped by city ordinance. Anyone aspiring to drive a taxi in New York City is required to purchase a license from a current holder.

Taxi in New York City | ©

Table of Contents
  1. Why Yellow Cabs Are More Visible
  2. What is the Significance of a Green Taxi in Certain New York City Neighborhoods?

Why Yellow Cabs Are More Visible

The association of taxis with the color yellow dates back to the early days of motorized vehicles. In 1907, American car dealer John D. Hertz was considering ways to utilize cars that were not selling. After some contemplation, he decided to launch a taxi service. Although the volume of vehicles on the streets was not as substantial as it is today, taxis were still getting lost among other cars. The ingenious Hertz commissioned a study to determine the most identifiable color for cars on the road.

The study concluded that yellow was the most noticeable color, a finding that was later applied to school buses as well.

Consequently, in 1915, Hertz’s Yellow Cab Chicago set a precedent that would later be adopted by New York City. The symbolic color for taxis became yellow. In 1923, John Hertz diversified his enterprise and began renting cars, which led to the establishment of one of the most renowned car rental companies worldwide, which fittingly sports yellow as the dominant color in its logo.

In 1967, New York City passed a city ordinance mandating all official taxis to be yellow. This move aimed to distinguish these vehicles from black cabs and make them easier to spot on the streets.

What is the Significance of a Green Taxi in Certain New York City Neighborhoods?

In some neighborhoods of New York City, you may come across green taxis. This color refers not to their environmentally friendly operations but their apple-green hue.

In 2011, a survey commissioned by New York City discovered that 95% of passengers hailed official yellow cabs in Manhattan below 96th Street or at JFK and LaGuardia airports. This distribution resulted in limited access to legal taxis for residents of the outer boroughs.

Merely increasing the existing count of 13,587 licensed taxis would not be effective, as they would likely congregate downtown where higher earnings are anticipated. To address this, City Hall devised a strategy to introduce a new license type for “boro taxis.” These taxis would be required to sport a mandatory green color, dubbed “Apple Green.”

Green cabs are permitted to pick up passengers north of East 96th Street and West 110th Street, as well as in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. While they can drop off passengers anywhere, they are not permitted to pick up passengers in the rest of Manhattan or at any of New York City’s airports.

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