New cabbie exam plays down knowing geography; does that compromise your safety and service?

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NEW YORK (PIX11) -- Will a change in the yellow taxi cabdriver exam result in cabbies getting lost?Some transportation advocates and even some cabdrivers and passengers are concerned that it will, even as the city agency that oversees taxi service tries to reassure the public otherwise.

"I have no idea what you're talking about, but that doesn't make much sense," said Kojo Brko, a veteran hack, in response to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, or TLC, reducing the number of questions about the geography of New York City on its 80-question cab driver exam.

Instead, the TLC has said, it has, since January, replaced many of the geography questions with ones that emphasize security and safety.

However, drivers like Brko say, that it has the opposite effect.  "I have to maybe rely on GPS," he told PIX11 News.  "That compromise[s] the safety of a passenger."

Passengers who spoke with PIX11 News had varying viewpoints regarding the change, but none of them was strongly positive.

"Have you ever gotten in a cab and they didn't know where they were going anyway and you wonder, 'How'd they get to drive a cab?'" asked Vicki Scott as she waited for a cab outside Penn Station.  "That's why we have technology," she said, in explaining why she always uses Google Maps when she rides in cabs.

By contrast, another waiting passenger, Brandi Grant, said, "My GPS gets me lost a lot."  She said that she assumed the same thing would happen to a cabbie relying on the direction finding technology.

Her friend, Amanda Needleman, added, "I'd rather be with someone who knows exactly where they're going.  I need security."

"They'll get lost," waiting passenger Casey Dickerson said about drivers who rely on GPS, "and you'll end up paying for them [for] driving around."

As it turned out, when this reporter hailed and boarded a cab in the West Village and asked to be taken to a relatively unknown address, 10 Downing Street, the driver ended up passing the street that was requested by seven blocks.

He then asked this passenger to look for the location on a smartphone map.  When, finally, we'd reached our destination, the driver expected full fare, even though he'd driven at least twice the distance that was required.