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Yellow cabs are in abundance almost everywhere in Manhattan, cruising the streets looking for fares. They are usually easy to hail on the street or from a cabstand in front of major hotels, though finding one at rush hour or in the rain can take some time. Even if you're stuck in a downpour or at the airport, do not accept a ride from a gypsy cab. If a cab is not yellow and does not have a numbered aqua-color plastic medallion riveted to the hood, you could be putting yourself in danger by getting into the car.
You can see whether a taxi is available by checking its rooftop light. If the center panel is lighted and the side panels are dark, the driver is ready to take passengers. Once the meter is engaged (and if it isn't, alert your driver; you'll seldom benefit from negotiating an off-the-record ride), the fare is $2.50 just for entering the vehicle and 40¢ for each unit thereafter. A unit is defined as either 0.20 mile when the cab's cruising at 6 mph or faster or as 60 seconds when the cab is either not moving or moving at less than 16 mph. A 50¢ night surcharge is added between 8 pm and 6 am, and a much-maligned $1 weekday surcharge is tacked on between 4 pm and 8 pm.
One taxi can hold a maximum of four passengers (an additional passenger under the age of seven is allowed if the child sits on someone's lap). There is no charge for extra passengers. You must pay any bridge or tunnel tolls incurred during your trip (a driver will usually pay the toll himself to keep moving quickly, but that amount will be added to the fare when the ride is over). Taxi drivers expect a 15% to 20% tip.
To avoid unhappy taxi experiences, try to know where you want to go and how to get there before you hail a cab. Know the specific cross streets of your destination (for instance, "5th Avenue and 42nd Street") before you enter a cab; a quick call to your destination will give you cross-street information, as will a glance at a map. Also, speak simply and clearly to make sure the driver has heard you correctly. When you leave the cab, remember to take your receipt. It includes the cab's medallion number, which can help you track the cabbie down in the event that you lose your possessions in the cab or if, after the fact, you want to report an unpleasant ride.
Taxis can be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to find in many parts of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, but a proposal to bring legal street hail service to all five boroughs may soon change that. In the meantime, you may have no choice but to call a car service. Always determine the fee beforehand when using a car service sedan; a 10%-15% tip is customary above that.
Carmel Car Service (New York, NY. 212/666-6666 or 866/666-6666. www.carmelcarservice.com.)
Dial 7 Car Service (New York, NY. 212/777–7777. www.dial7.com.)
London Towncars (Long Island City, NY. 212/988–9700 or 800/221–4009. www.londontowncars.com.)
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