AskDefine | Define taxicab

Dictionary Definition

taxicab n : a car driven by a person whose job is to take passengers where they want to go in exchange for money [syn: cab, hack, taxi]

User Contributed Dictionary




  • a UK /ˈtæk.siˌkæb/ /"t

Extensive Definition

A taxi, also taxicab or cab, is a type of public transport for a single passenger, or small group of passengers, typically for a non-shared ride. A taxicab is a vehicle for hire which conveys passengers between locations of their choice. In most other modes of public transport, the pick-up and drop-off locations are determined by the service provider, not by the passenger, although demand responsive transport and share taxis provide a hybrid bus/taxi mode. Four distinct forms of 'taxicab' can be identified, identified by slightly differing terms in differing countries, identified as: Hackney Carriage, also known as public hire, hailed or street taxis, available for hire and reward and for hailing on street, Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs), also known as minicabs, Private Hire Taxis, available by pre-booking, not (legally) available for hailing on street, Taxibus, also known as Jitney, operating on pre-set routes for hire and reward. Typified by multiple stops multiple occupancy, and Limousine, specialist vehicle licensed for operation by pre-booking.
Although types of vehicles and methods of regulation, hiring, dispatching, and negotiating payment differ significantly from country to country, many common characteristics exist.


Harry Nathaniel Allen, The New York Taxicab Co. imported the first 600 gas-powered New York taxicabs from France, coined the word taxicab as a contraction of 'taximeter cab'. In time, the shortened term taxi came into common usage. 'Cab' is an abbreviation of cabriolet, a type of horse-drawn carriage. In UK English the word 'taxicab' is rarely used and is not afforded a distinct dictionary entry: in the UK 'taximeter cab' was shortened to 'taxi' and 'cab', and these were and are used separately to distinguish different types of service/vehicle. This article is in USA English and so 'taxicab' appears throughout.
In turn, taximeter is an adaptation of the French word 'taximètre', which is a derivation of the German word 'taxameter', coined from Medieval Latin 'taxa' which means 'tax/charge' together with 'meter' from the Greek 'metron' meaning measure.


Horse-drawn for-hire hackney carriage services began operating in both Paris and London in the early 17th century. Royal proclamations in both cities regulated the number of carriages - the first example of taxicab regulation, In London the Hackney Carriage Act (1635) became the first legislated control on the taxi vehicle. In the 19th century, Hansom cabs largely replaced the older designs because of their improved speed and safety.
Although battery-powered vehicles enjoyed a brief success in Paris, London, and New York in the 1890s, the 1891 invention by German Wilhelm Bruhn of the taximeter (the familiar mechanical and now often electronic device that calculates the fare in most taxicabs) ushered in the modern taxi. The first modern meter-equipped taxicab was the Daimler Victoria, built by Gottlieb Daimler in 1897; the first motorized taxi company began operating in Stuttgart the same year.
Gasoline-powered taxicabs began operating in Paris in 1899, in London in 1903, and in New York in 1907. The New York taxicabs were imported from France by businessperson Harry N. Allen. Allen was the first person to paint his taxicabs yellow, after learning that yellow is the colour most easily seen from a distance.
Taxicabs proliferated around the world in the early 20th century. The first major innovation after the invention of the taximeter occurred in the late 1940s, when two-way radios first appeared in taxicabs. Radios enabled taxicabs and dispatch offices to communicate and serve customers more efficiently than previous methods, such as using callboxes. The next major innovation occurred in the 1980s, when computer assisted dispatching was first introduced.
There has generally been a legal struggle concerning the certification of motor vehicles to be taxicabs, which take much more wear than a private car does. In London, they were additionally required to meet stringent specifications (Metropolitan Conditions of Fitness - MCF), adopted in entirety by a number of other large UK cities (including Glasgow and Edinburgh), for example, as concerns turn radius, which resulted for a time in having only one make legally usable. In the US, in the 1930s, the cabs were often DeSotos or Packards. General Motors offered a specialized vehicle for a time, named the General. The firm Checker came into existence then, and stopped manufacturing cabs in the early 1980s. Its cars were specially built to carry "double dates." But now New York City requires that all taxicabs be ordinary cars. They are mainly long-wheelbase versions of the Ford Crown Victoria. Toyota Sienna minivans are the alternate vehicle of choice in New York's cab fleet. In the 1960s in Europe, Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot offered diesel taxicabs. This form of engine is now the norm in europe due to it's superior fuel economy, torque and reliability.
Most taxicabs were driven either by Indian immigrants to the United States, mostly in New York and many other states.


Taxi service is typically provided by automobiles, but various human-powered vehicles, (such as the rickshaw) and animal-powered vehicles (such as the Hansom cab) or even boats (such as water taxis or gondolas) are also used or have been used historically. In Western Europe it is not uncommon for expensive cars such as Mercedes-Benz to be the taxicab of choice. Often this decision is based upon the perceived reliability of, and warranty offered with these vehicles. These taxi-service vehicles are often equipped with four-cylinder turbodiesel engines and relatively low levels of equipment, and are not considered luxury cars.
In Spain, the most-seen taxicabs are vehicles like Škoda Octavia or SEAT Toledo.
In Norway, many taxicabs are Mercedes E-class (usually E-220 CDI) or Volvo V70. These cars are almost always equipped with diesel engines, automatic transmission, satellite navigation, and high quality trim levels.
In Australia, taxicabs are mainly Ford Falcons and less commonly, Holden Commodores. Kia Carnivals are becoming increasingly popular due to the low price of these vehicles. There are premium operators who mainly operate on Ford Fairlanes and Holden Statesmans. Almost all Australian taxicabs run on liquefied petroleum gas. There is also a Chrysler 300C Turbo Diesel Cab in the Victorian Fleet.
In New Zealand, similarly to Australia, the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon have been the traditional taxicab of choice. In the last decade however, a move has been made towards large front wheel drive V6 models such as the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Camry. At the other end of the scale, used examples of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 5 Series are becoming popular for more upmarket companies, along with the traditional "Corporate cabs": the Ford Fairlane and Holden Statesman.
In the United Kingdom a current debate exists as to the most appropriate vehicles to be licensed as taxis. Local authorities split between those which adopt the Metropolitan Conditions of Fitness, which are widely interpreted to require London style Black taxis, and those which allow a wider range of vehicles. The debate is informed, but not solved, by a desire to implement accessible taxis, defined and required under the Disability Discrimination Act (1985), but not enforced in all authority areas. UK devolved administrations (Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales) have devolved responsibilities for taxi licensing law (but not for application, which is enforced at a local authority level). Scotland can, but chooses not to, determine a national vehicle standard. Northern Ireland, which operates as a single authority under the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland, operates a four vehicle structure.
In recent years, some companies have been adding specially modified vehicles capable of transporting wheelchair-using passengers to their fleets. Such taxicabs are variously called accessible taxis, wheelchair- or wheelchair-accessible taxicabs, modified taxicabs, and so on.
Wheelchair taxicabs are most often vans or minivans which have undergone special modifications. Wheelchair-using passengers are loaded, with the help of the driver, via a lift or, more commonly, a ramp, at the rear of the vehicle. The wheelchair is secured using various systems, commonly including some type of belt and clip combination, or wheel locks. Most wheelchair taxicabs are capable of transporting only one wheelchair-using passenger at a time, and can usually accommodate up to four additional able-bodied passengers.
Wheelchair taxicabs are part of the regular fleet in most cases, and so are not reserved exclusively for the use of wheelchair users. They are often used by able-bodied people who need to transport luggage, small items of furniture, animals, and other items. Because of this, and since only a small percentage of the average fleet is modified, wheelchair users must often wait for significantly longer periods when calling for a cab, and flagging a modified taxicab on the street is much more difficult.


Originally, hackney carriage companies were distinguished from each other by their drivers' livery (uniforms) and by the colours of their carriages. For example, at the end of the 19th century in Paris, Compagnie Generale carriages were painted blue, while those of Abeille were painted green ("The Paris Cabman"). During the early years of the twentieth century, private cars were usually black because paints of other colours were not durable. Taxis were the exception, as they would be touched up or worn out. Around the world today, taxi companies are still distinguished by the way their cars are painted.

North America

In the United States and Canada, many older taxi companies are named according to their paint schemes. Thus, "Yellow Cabs" are painted yellow, Checker taxis have a distinctive black-and-white or black-and-yellow checkerboard stripe around their bodies, "Blue and White Cabs" might have blue bodies and white roofs, and "Black Top" and "Red Top Cabs" have black and red roofs respectively. In the 1920s, a famous company named "Brown and White" lost a lawsuit to prevent other taxi drivers from painting their cars these colours. In 1960, NYC ordered that taxis be painted yellow.
Some Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver have taxis with their own custom colours, but Montreal-area taxis (mostly mid-size cars such as the Chevrolet Malibu and Toyota Camry) remain exactly the same car.
In Orange County, Florida, many of the taxicabs are painted orange.
Mexico City's ubiquitous VW Type 1 (Beetle) cabs were green and white (being firstly yellow) by law until early 2003. However, the tiny cars had been displaced by bigger four-door sedans, the Nissan Tsuru, a Sentra MkIII (B13) based saloon and recognized for their red/white (or silver) body colour. No VW are coloured this way anymore. Matchbox released a scale model of the VW taxi in 2004, numbered 31.


In India, most taxicabs, especially those in Delhi and Mumbai taxicabs have distinctive black and yellow liveries with the bottom half painted black and upper half painted yellow. In Kolkatta, most taxis are painted yellow with black strip in the middle. Private companies operating taxis can have their own liveries but need to get them approved from the government. Taxicabs of Hong Kong have three colours based on service area. Red with silver top for urban Hong Kong, green with white top for New Territories and blue with white top for Lantau Island. The colours are to even out service between less densely populated areas and urban centres of the territory.
Most taxis in Hong Kong are Toyota Comfort (YXS10 series). This is a mid size rear wheel drive model specially manufactured as commercial use 4 door sedan, and it is very durable. All taxis in Hong Kong are powered by LPG engine nowadays.
In Japan,taxicabs have each colours or designs based on company. The majority of Japanese cars are white, silver or black. So most taxis adopt showy colours, such as green, red, and orange, to attract customers' attention.
Most Japanese taxis use three types of cars, Toyota Comfort type (Toyota Crown Comfort, Toyota Comfort, Toyota Crown Sedan), Nissan Crew and Nissan Cedric(Y31 series sedan).
Recently, some taxi companies have selected Toyota Crown (S170 and S180 series) as a taxi because cars made for taxi (such as Comfort,Crew and Cedric) have very plain interior.


In Germany, taxicabs are beige, a look that was officially stipulated by law as Elfenbein a light ivory-colour in 1971. In 2005 this legal restriction was lifted, but most taxicab drivers associations and companies still prefer the unified look and visibility of beige.
In Greece taxicabs have variable colours, according to the city they are registered. For example, in Athens they are yellow (see: In all rural areas, they are usually silver-coloured. In other cities except Athens they have particular colours, such as dark red (Patra)or blue (Thessaloniki). Cars used as taxis are only 4-door sedan with great luggage space. Mostly used cars as taxis are Mercedes E-class, VW Passat, Skoda Octavia and Toyota Avensis. Most of them in urban areas are equipped with GPS navigation systems.
In Scandinavia there is no particular colour for taxicabs. Various shades of black and silver are the most popular choices of colour. Mostly used cars are Volvo S80/V70, Mercedes C and E-class, Toyota Avensis, Skoda Octavia, VW Passat and Transporter/Caravelle bus and BMW 5-series. In Finland and Sweden taxis are equipped with GPS navigation and booking system.


In Australia, livery is determined by state legislation. In Victoria, an all-yellow scheme is adopted. In contrast, in Queensland, livery is dependent on which company is operating the dispatch system the taxi uses. In Queensland, there are two dispatch companies only. In South Australia, most taxis are white.
In Papua New Guinea, Taxis are usually white vans marked minimally.


seealso Taxi stand Taxis are often "hailed" or "flagged" on the street, either by a passenger as a taxi is driving by, or at a taxi stand (sometimes also called a "cab stand" or "hack stand," also "taxi rank" or "cab rank"). Taxi stands are usually located at airports, railway stations, and hotels, as well as at other places where large numbers of passengers are likely to be found. In some places—Japan, for example—taxi stands are arranged according to the size of the taxis, so that large- and small-capacity cabs line up separately. The taxi at the front of the line, due (barring unusual circumstances) for the next fare, is referred to in America as being " on the nut ".
Passengers also commonly call a central dispatch office for taxis. In some jurisdictions private hire vehicles can only be hired from the dispatch office, and must be assigned each fare by the office by radio or phone. Picking up passengers off the street in these areas can lead to suspension or revocation of the driver's taxi license, or even prosecution.
Other areas may have a mix of the two systems, where drivers may respond to radio calls and also pick up street fares.


The activity of taxi fleets is usually monitored and controlled by a central office, which provides dispatching, accounting, and human resources services to one or more taxi companies. Taxi owners and drivers usually communicate with the dispatch office through either a 2-way radio or a computer terminal (called a mobile data terminal). Before the innovation of radio dispatch in the 1950s, taxi drivers would use a callbox—a special telephone at a taxi stand—to contact the dispatch office.
When a customer calls for a taxi, a trip is dispatched by either radio or computer, via an in-vehicle mobile data terminal, to the most suitable cab. The most suitable cab may either be the one closest to the pick-up address (often determined by GPS coordinates nowadays) or the one that was the first to book in to the "zone" surrounding the pickup address. Cabs are sometimes dispatched from their taxi stands; a call to "Top of the 2" means that the first cab in line at stand #2 is supposed to pick someone up.
In offices using radio dispatch, taxi locations are often tracked using magnetic pegs on a "board"—a metal sheet with an engraved map of taxi zones. In computerized dispatch, the status of taxis is tracked by the computer system.
Taxi frequencies are generally licensed in duplex pairs. One frequency is used for the dispatcher to talk to the cabs, and a second frequency is used to the cabs to talk back. This means that the drivers generally cannot talk to each other. Some cabs have a CB radio in addition to the company radio so they can speak to each other.
In the United States, there is a Taxicab Radio Service with pairs assigned for this purpose. A taxi company can also be licensed in the Business Radio Service. Business frequencies in the UHF range are also licensed in pairs to allow for repeaters, though taxi companies usually use the pair for duplex communications.
Some companies don't operate their own radio system and instead subscribe to an Specialized Mobile Radio system. The conventional radios are most suited to companies that operate within the local area and have a high volume of radio traffic. The SMR is more commonly used by black car services that cover a wider area, and smaller companies who use less airtime and don't want to run their own radio systems. With the advent of Public Data Networks in the 1990s, operators are beginning to use PDAs and advanced mobile phones for dispatching and tracking functions in lieu of the traditional radio. Some small car services don't use a dispatcher at all. Instead the customers' calls are forwarded to the cell phones of whichever drivers are on duty at the time.


For the distance travelled, the fare for a taxi is usually higher than for other forms of public transport (bus, tram, metro, minicab, train, bike). The fare is not based on the number of people travelling together in a taxi unless it is a 'maxi-taxi' (which can carry up to 8 people). Another system is one where more than one customer shares the same taxi and fares are per person. Fares are usually calculated according to a combination of 4 elements: Tariff rate, Initial flag fall, distance and waiting time. A taximeter calculates this automatically ("meter" for short and the origin of the word "taxi"). Instead of a metered fare, passengers sometimes pay a flat fare. In some areas, when demand is high—for instance, late at night—a taxi driver may pick up the customer offering the highest bid (this practice may be against the law).


Most experienced taxi drivers who have been working in the same city or region for a while would be expected to know the most important streets and places where their customers might want to go. However, to aid the process of manual navigation and the taxi driver's memory (and the customer's as well at times) a cab driver is usually equipped with a detailed roadmap of the area in which they work. There is also an increasing use of GPS driven navigational systems in the more wealthy countries around the world.
In London, despite the complex and haphazard road layout, such aids have only recently been employed by a small number of 'black cab' taxi (as opposed to minicab) drivers. Instead, they are required to undergo a demanding process of learning and testing called The Knowledge. This typically takes around three years and equips them with a detailed command of 25,000 streets within central London, major routes outside this area, and all buildings and other destinations to which passengers may ask to be taken.

Environmental Concerns

Taxicabs have been both criticized for creating pollution and also hailed as a environmentally responsible alternative to private car use. Because a typical taxi is always cruising the streets, either driving a passenger or looking for a new fare, individual taxicabs see high levels of use. In cities where taxicabs use fossil fuels, this can be a significant source of pollution. On the other hand, having taxis readily available in a city enables some residents to forgo ownership of a car altogether, especially if the city has multiple modes of public transportation available. Some cities, such as Hong Kong, have converted all taxicabs to compressed natural gas. Still other cities, such as Arlington, Virginia have developed street taxi stands so that drivers do not need to cruise the streets to find passengers. Another concern is ambient pollution affecting the driver and passenger. A project, designed at understanding exposure to air pollution in an urban environment and looking at five transport methods for travelling across London, was carried out by a team from Imperial College London and the Health and Safety Laboratory, Buxton.
The results, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment in January 2006, showed that the level of pollution that people are exposed to differs according to the mode of transport that they use. The most risky method of transport was the back seat of a taxicab, followed by travelling by bus, cycling, walking, with a private car exposing people to the lowest amount of pollution.

International Trade Association

Established in 1917, the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) is a non-profit trade association of and for the private passenger transportation industry. The membership spans the globe to include 1,100 taxicab companies, executive sedan and limousine services, airport shuttle fleets, non-emergency medical transportation companies, and paratransit services.
taxicab in Bulgarian: Такси
taxicab in Catalan: Taxi
taxicab in Czech: Taxi
taxicab in Danish: Hyrevogn
taxicab in German: Taxi
taxicab in Modern Greek (1453-): Ταξί
taxicab in Spanish: Taxi
taxicab in Esperanto: Taksio
taxicab in French: Taxi
taxicab in Korean: 택시
taxicab in Croatian: Taksi
taxicab in Indonesian: Taksi
taxicab in Italian: Taxi
taxicab in Hebrew: מונית
taxicab in Luxembourgish: Taxi
taxicab in Lithuanian: Taksi
taxicab in Dutch: Taxi (vervoer)
taxicab in Japanese: タクシー
taxicab in Norwegian: Drosje
taxicab in Polish: Taksówka
taxicab in Portuguese: Táxi
taxicab in Romanian: Taximetru
taxicab in Russian: Такси
taxicab in Simple English: Taxi
taxicab in Slovenian: Taksi
taxicab in Finnish: Taksi
taxicab in Swedish: Taxi
taxicab in Turkish: Taksici
taxicab in Ukrainian: Таксі
taxicab in Urdu: ٹیکسی
taxicab in Wu Chinese: 差头
taxicab in Contenese: 的士
taxicab in Chinese: 出租車
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