Hack Job Part I: The games taxi drivers play

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(NEW YORK) –  Has this happened to you? [1] Taxi cab with its off-duty light on pulls up [2] driver asks’ “where are you going?”

Right there a rule has been broken. While the off-duty light is used during taxi changeover, a year-long PIX11 investigation found drivers are using it as a common practice to ‘pick’ their rides, which is not allowed under the city’s rules. The vast majority of city taxi cabs belong to fleets for which shift-change generally takes place between 4pm to 5pm and again between 4am to 5am. During which time a driver is permitted to ask “are you going my way?”

The difference is subtle but important – if a driver states which way he or she is headed for the cab’s handover, it maintains an appearance of propriety.

Hack Job

The off-duty “where you going?” question, far from the shift-change hour and used in mass, is considered “cherry-picking” within the taxi industry, and is illegal. But in recent years, the practice has become blatantly common on nights when demand is high – often on weekends in nightlife intensive neighborhoods including the Lower East Side, East Village, SoHo, West  Village, and the Meatpacking District.

During the course of the PIX11 investigation, drivers admitted to using the off-duty lights to avoid taking passengers to outer boroughs even though TLC drivers are required by law to take passengers anywhere within the 5 boroughs. Even passengers going to Manhattan were denied by drivers who did not want to make multiple stops or go across town. Drivers told PIX11 crosstown trips often take longer and since the meter runs more slowly at red lights or in traffic, they refuse the passenger under the guise of being “off-duty.”

Part II of our series “Hack Job” features an inside look at a TLC crackdown and an interview with TLC Commissioner David Yassky who attempts to hail a cab to Brooklyn, where he actually lives.


  • A yellow cab driver

    This chinese/ korean guy seems he dont't have any job. Thats why he goes after poor cab drivers and he thinks that he did a great job.I would say do some bigger job not these kind of bullshit.May be his father is a Limo driver and don't like yellow cab.

  • Girly Cabbie

    First of all, this is why the TLC is doing away with the "off duty" lights altogether. So in another few months this will be a total non-issue. Secondly, all this story does is lump all drivers in with the few rule breakers. Not all of us do this. I actually despise the few that do, and think it give the rest of us a bad name. You want to go to Brooklyn? Queens? Jersey? I'll take you there with a smile. And a lot of other drivers will too. Don't make it seem like we are all the bad guys here. Any profession you will have those who want to bend the rules to their advantage, but then you have the rest who are honest, hard working people who have to put up with situations most people couldn't and wouldn't dare handle. NYC taxi drivers keep this city moving. Instead of vilifying us, maybe you should say thank you instead!

  • Abie

    Shame on this reporter. I would have more respect for him if he did the other side of the story, The TLC gets hundreds if not thousands of letters every year from passengers commending drivers. If he would do a few of these stories I'd have a lot more respect for him.

    • @#%&!

      yep, what about doing a story on what is TLC plan to stop the illegal pick up with black cars, I am sure all current cab driver can see that, and that's not all, black car with connecticut and jersey plates also come to the city and grab a bite.

  • abdu duk

    thank you pix11, i am a taxi driver for 9 years it is true some of us are very bad i know that but not all of us are bad as you said in your reporte you did very good on this one . now after you finish with this side of the story, for you pix11 to be honest reporter please go to the TLC office at 40 rector st queens blvd and do the same under cover work on TLC judges you will see how stupid bad they are there. they have no respect the drivers ,is only what ever they want they so full so full of lie i tell you the TLC judges .they full of shit them self .please go there . and please show this to david yusky . and i mean what i said.

    • @#%&!

      Plus garages, hotels to crack down doorman demand money for airport trip, then, you will find out these cabbies are being push to break your so call law which the correct title should be TLC violation. if they break the law, cops can arrest them , correct?

  • Alexandra

    I'm glad that they're doing this because this happened to me just last saturday when I was on Delancey heading to bushwick. Yes not all drivers are like this but if he was fabricating the truth he wouldn't have the footage for it, passangers wouldn't have to say they're going to "east williamsburg" to head to bushwick. And yes not all drivers are like this, and yes your jobs are difficult but anyone that works and earns a paycheck deals with the b/s of their job: sanitation workers, bankers, and etc. EVERY JOB HAS TO DEAL WITH IT. so if you are doing your job and everyone else gets repromanded why shouldn't drivers.

    • Girly Cabbie

      There is a big difference between reprimanding and vilifying. It is one thing for a boss to scold a group of employees for a few peoples bad job. It is another thing entirely to show a one sided story on public news about how apparently an entire industry of people are out there to do nothing but take advantage of everyone. This does more than give us a bad name. It affects our entire livelihoods. If a banker or a garbageman gets reprimanded, they still carry on with their job. They still get paid. Sure, they may have a little shame or guilt hanging over them, but that's it. When you make an industry like the NYC taxis out to be publicly all horrible people, you know who that hurts? The families of the honest drivers. You take away our customers, we don't get paid. I get that every job has it's issues, but not every job has issues which penalizes the workers(in the pocket) for a few bad apples. In your job, if your coworker did something wrong, would you want a pay cut? would you ALLOW a pay cut? No, probably not.

      Also, nobody is denying that there are the bad apples in the bunch. But the issue is with how one sided this is. For every bad driver there are at least a dozen good ones. But where are we represented in any of this? We aren't. Selective journalism to make us all into the bad guys just so they have a story. Even the radio commercials which played all day in my cab did nothing more than to make this story into the rats at a KFC party.

  • Mir

    How about showing the other side of the story, of when the taxi cab drivers take them out to another borough, and then run out the cab without paying the fare? Then tell me why you find this so unbelievable.

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  • Coach Bus Oxnard

    For the taxi services in metros or cities there are certain rules or code of conduct to be follow by the taxi owner's or divers. It is strictly not allowed to carry any passenger after the daily duty time is over. It means no taxi driver is allowed to take any passenger at the end of the day or in off duty time. If anyone doing this then it will a crime for not to follow the rules set by the government.
    In such cases the taxi driver may banned from his service or his license should be cancelled. In some cases the taxi driver might have pay the fine for his this type of guilty.

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