Monday, February 6, 2012

Taxis as Part of a Transit System

Taxis don’t have much presence in the North Bay.  Private car ownership is high and there’s not enough population density for many taxi drivers to make a living.  One would spend a lot of time standing on a street corner in Sonoma waiting to flag down a cab.

However, it’s possible to visualize a future in which town centers have more residents but fewer cars, in which improving transit systems allow us to accomplish more of our daily lives by train or bus, and in which taxis have a bigger role for the occasional trip. 

With that admittedly long-range future in mind, a recent Atlantic Cities article on taxi use in New York City provides food for thought.  Illustrated by a cool video, the article argues that many taxi trips are asymmetrical.   That there are more trips home at the end of the day that away from home in the morning.

Thus, the availability of cabs in the evening allow the use of transit in the morning.  And cabs, rather than being a stand-alone feature of big cities, are an integral part of a transit system.

Rocky Balboa Pose at Philadelphia Museum of Art

During the summer of 2010, I visited Philadelphia with a group of friends to see a Phillies game. The five of us arrived on Amtrak from New York City.  Our intention was to take the subway from the Amtrak station to Citizens Bank Park.  However, upon arrival in Philly, we decided to stop by the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the stairs on which Rocky Balboa had trained.  To do so, we hailed a pair of cabs.  We had them take us for a stop at the Museum and then to a sports bar near the ballpark where we could enjoy the local flavor until gametime.  Afterwards, we took the subway back to the Amtrak Station.  (The photo is of one of our party at the top of the stairs.)

The day was a perfect example of what the author means by taxis complementing transit.  If Philadelphia had no taxis, we would have been forced to rent a car, depriving the transit system of our return fares and putting one more car filled with clueless visitors on the crowded city streets.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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