Twenty bucks, same as in town!
November 3, 2010 11:07 PM   Subscribe

Well well. My town, dear ol' Tokyo, is just shy of the top five. Can't believe we let little old Helsinki beat us.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:28 PM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

$9.23 – $11.54 Auckland, New Zealand

I still dont understand how taking a taxi with all those quadrant-crossing charges in DC is STILL cheaper than a taxi in the south pacific.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:35 PM on November 3, 2010

Damn Tallinn! Always gotta one-up-us!
posted by mannequito at 11:36 PM on November 3, 2010

Is there anybody awake who lives in the states?
posted by hal_c_on at 11:37 PM on November 3, 2010

Don't worry, Flapjax, we'll win overall. I mean, taxi rates in Japan are standardized. Any taxi you get in here, the flag falls at 710 yen, and if there's traffic, the meter starts running based on time. Three kilometers in Tokyo? By taxi? That'll take days. That, and the old man driving the cab probably won't know how to get where you want to go. 'Shinjuku? Where's that?'

If you're coming to Japan? Seriously, don't take a taxi.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:42 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Meanwhile I've long believed that Epcot Center should redo the China Pavilion to include the Wuhan Taxi Ride. It'd be the most thrilling, terrifying ride in any theme park. So cheap, so terrifying.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:43 PM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

> If you're coming to Japan? Seriously, don't take a taxi.

I have only visited Japan 5-6 times on business, but my experience with taxis there has always been good.

During my very first visit, I took a taxi from my hotel to the central railway station at about 7 in the morning. The fare came to some 1900 yen. I only had about 1500 yen in change, but I had a few 10000 yen notes. It just so happened that the driver didn't have the right change on him either. With profuse apologies, the driver explained to me that it was his fault for not carrying enough change and that therefore he will not charge me anything. It took me a lot of effort to convince him to at least take the 1500 yen that I did have. And then he gave me the receipt for the full amount.

I think I would have had a profoundly different experience if I had tried that "I don't have enough change" line in, say, Russia (where I was based at the time).

Now, if I were Thomas Friedman, I could have written a column on Japan with that experience. As it is, this comment is all I've got.
posted by vidur at 12:01 AM on November 4, 2010 [13 favorites]

Taxis are so great and cheap in South Korea. I'm spoiled really, because I don't take the bus as often as I should. And they all have on-board GPS systems, so you can practice your Korean listening and geography skills.
posted by bardic at 12:07 AM on November 4, 2010

Amsterdam, where I live, I never got it and I never will. In Tokyo, the cabby refused a tip. Refused.
posted by ouke at 12:15 AM on November 4, 2010

Tokyo taxis are hit and miss. Some drivers are good, others with a) try to scam foreigners by going way out of the way or b) genuinely don't know their way around the city and take absurd routes to your destination. Ghidorah, are you sure the rate is based on time? I'm pretty sure it's by distance. I've been stuck in traffic jams in which the meter didn't change if the car wasn't moving.
posted by zardoz at 12:28 AM on November 4, 2010

Ghidorah, are you sure the rate is based on time? I'm pretty sure it's by distance. I've been stuck in traffic jams in which the meter didn't change if the car wasn't moving.

On expressways taxis change to a combined distance/time system: an extra 90 yen for every 1 minute and 45 seconds in addition to the usual distance-based fare.
posted by armage at 12:35 AM on November 4, 2010

Is it just me or is this the same list as this
posted by Felex at 12:51 AM on November 4, 2010

I spent a couple of years in and out of Tokyo. Taxis were immaculate but not always that convenient. I transitioned to the underground and the JR lines quickly as I learned my way around the city.

Taxis in Shanghai and Beijing are definitely cheap and plentiful, so long as it's not raining and you know the secrets to avoid taxi crushes. But once you get a ride, I don't recommend looking out the front window. There's only so many times you can see a bus bearing down on you or your taxi about to take out a small crowd of pedestrians. Amazingly, it almost never actually happens. I normally spend the time texting colleagues or friends or looking out the side window. Much less stressful.
posted by michswiss at 12:55 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Hanoi price can easily be much higher than that - lots of crooked taxi drivers about.
posted by w0mbat at 1:11 AM on November 4, 2010

I've been trying to price out how much it would cost to spend some time in Europe this spring, and this site has been really helpful! This is the first trip budgeting website I've seen that has been in any way useful or realistic.
posted by Sara C. at 1:29 AM on November 4, 2010

I guess what I meant by 'don't take a taxi' is that they are prohibitively expensive compared to other forms of transportation. If you're on business, and your expenses are paid, that's a different story. Most taxi drivers in Japan are pretty courteous, and most of them can get you where you want to go. It's just the price is steep.

As for the time meter, yeah, it's based on distance, but if you're stuck in traffic (like, say, any rainy day), and the taxi doesn't move, the fare will start climbing. Last taxi in a traffic jam I was in, I got out after four minutes equalled about $6.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:32 AM on November 4, 2010

"Is there anybody awake who lives in the states?"

That's a rather personal question.
posted by Eideteker at 1:38 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh London, my little flower, must you always be in the top 10 of everything?
posted by nickrussell at 1:41 AM on November 4, 2010

And this is why Londoners use minicabs, not black cabs. Find a good minicab company and you can almost half that quoted fare. And it gets better for longer journeys.
posted by Decani at 1:55 AM on November 4, 2010

The black cab/minicab thing is really strange here. There's a new company that advertises as the cheapest, but I'm so embarrassed by the constant sales pitch during the drive that I'd rather stand in the middle of Oxford Road waiting for a ripoff black taxi half the time. Plus the drivers keep telling me about how they don't make any money so I feel compelled to tip them ridiculous amounts. Guilt economics are an exciting new trend I could do without.
posted by shinybaum at 2:38 AM on November 4, 2010

I was in Zurich yesterday. I stayed one night and my hotel cost nearly £500. Nice view of the river though. I forget how much the taxi to the airport cost. 70 francs?
posted by Major Tom at 3:16 AM on November 4, 2010

shinybaum: weird. I use several minicab firms and I never get anything like that. They just drive me where I want to go and never complain about receiving the same sort of standard London cab tip I'd give to a black cab driver.
posted by Decani at 4:38 AM on November 4, 2010

In London the problem with minicabs is that quite often the driver has absolutely no idea where he is going whereas the black cab driver is pretty much guaranteed (by his training) to know even the most ridiculously out of the way address.

My wife and I got stuck on my wedding night in the middle of a torrential rainstorm trying to hail a cab (as everyone knows, when you need a black cab you can't get one). Eventually a minicab spotted us and we gratefully piled in, giving him an address in Hampstead, just a couple of miles from Islington, which was where the reception had been.

He swore he knew the address. An hour later he still hadn't found it, and (of course) had no A-Z.

"I thought you knew where it was!" I yelled at him.

"I DO know where it is", he yelled back. "I just can't find it!"
posted by unSane at 4:39 AM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

The taxis fares in The Hague are, as I recall, pretty comparable to Amsterdam. When I lived there as a student, the only time we ever used a taxi was to move house, moving the things that couldn't be taken on a bicycle.
posted by ob at 5:06 AM on November 4, 2010

I have come across some of the freakiest taxi drivers in Tokyo... the karaoke singing one.... the cross dressing masturbating one... *shivers*
posted by gomichild at 5:10 AM on November 4, 2010

all those quadrant-crossing charges in DC

DC switched to meters last year, amidst much whining and bitching from cabbies.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:13 AM on November 4, 2010

Hah - the rate from my house to work is $7 - $7.50 for one freaking mile. In a suburb. Not including the tip. And if you don't tip, they won't show up the next morning because there is only one cab company in the whole county, the bus doesn't not run on any schedule, there's a foot of snow on the ground & the sidewalks won't be cleared for another week (because the schools have closed) so you can't even walk to work safely.
posted by jaimystery at 5:15 AM on November 4, 2010

I live in a village less than a dozen miles outside Cambridge. The same village as my doctor and the local taxi firm.

Until recently, the insane taxi pricing in Cambridge meant that a taxi from my house to the doctor (which is just under 3km away) cost 48USD.

Yes, you read that right.

Under Cambridge taxi rules, there was no such thing as a village to village taxi fare. All fare inside the city were on a per mile basis, and all trips from the city to a village were fixed cost (£15). A taxi ride from village to village was a minimum of £30, because the rules stated it had to be billed as from the village to the city and back, even if you only went 100yrds.

So, yeah, until some time late last year, a 3km ride from my house to my doctor cost £30 - $48 according to google...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 5:23 AM on November 4, 2010

Taxi rides here are theoretically around 2 to 3 dollars a mile but you might as well ask about unicorn ride rates since it's close to impossible to actually get a taxi. You can't hail them and if you call Yellow Cab it's a fifty-fifty shot that they will show up at all and if they do, it'll be an hour late.
posted by octothorpe at 5:43 AM on November 4, 2010

The taxis in Switzerland are expensive, but they're usually 1. a late model Mercedes, 2. owned by the driver and maintained meticulously, and 3. extremely reliable. Call for a ride to the train station at 4:00 a.m.? They'll be at your door at 3:55 every damn time.

Worth the expense, at least from my perspective in California, where the local taxis are filthy and the drivers are meth addicts.
posted by letitrain at 6:06 AM on November 4, 2010

What is the business model behind taxi driving anyway? I assume the company or dispatcher takes a significant cut. There's gas and insurance. How much of your fare does the driver actually see? I take taxis a lot for work-related trips and am constantly amazed that my taxi journey from the airport is often close to the cost of my airfare.
posted by amusebuche at 6:29 AM on November 4, 2010

I love taking a taxi in Edinburgh. I remember when I first moved here from Tennessee, I'd never really taken a taxi before and it felt so glamorous slipping into one of those black cabs. The cabbies here are almost always incredibly friendly and chatty -- they'll tell you all kinds of stories if you encourage them, and i've had many a laugh with a taxi driver on the way to where i was going. To me, the cabbies are just another reason that Edinburgh is such a cool place to live - i'm glad to see that they aren't too expensive either!
posted by ukdanae at 6:35 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

DC switched to meters last year, amidst much whining and bitching from cabbies.

And some of them are still complaining.
I'd love to know what cost these people would get if they checked DC cab rates.
posted by inigo2 at 6:47 AM on November 4, 2010

What is the business model behind taxi driving anyway?

One model is where the driver is just an operator. They rent the taxi for a shift for a flat fee, and they only pay for gas and based on fares either make money or they don't. This isn't great, but doesn't require the overhead of buying and maintaining a licensed taxi.
posted by smackfu at 7:09 AM on November 4, 2010

The taxis in Switzerland are expensive, but they're usually 1. a late model Mercedes, 2. owned by the driver and maintained meticulously, and 3. extremely reliable. Call for a ride to the train station at 4:00 a.m.? They'll be at your door at 3:55 every damn time.

We have these in NYC as well. They usually gather in flocks in the clogged little streets in the financial district. If they see you trying to hail a yellow cab after dark they will swoop in to begin negotiations, they cost roughly 500 times the amount a yellow cab costs. Sometimes you will come across a feral stretch. They usually cruise midtown and smell like what I imagine freebasing 100 dollar bills to smell like.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:16 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

A lot of the time the prices will tend to justify the reliability, knowledge & added value.

London cab drivers spend an insane amount of time (& money) learning The Knowledge and can get anywhere, anytime. The prices reflect that and the cost of the city in general.

New York taxi drivers are cheaper but can worryingly clueless outside the standard grid.

E.g. I arrived at La Guardia a few nights ago & jumped into a cab for what should have been a 10 minute, $10 ride to my friend's new place in Astoria. 20 minutes later, having gone 'round in a few circles, I got us to the intersection and paid up. For some reason the payment screen kicked through a cash payment after the tip screen rather than the credit I'd selected so we had to go through this whole dance of him whining about losing money on the fare when I suggested he set a minimum fare & tip up to what should have been the original credit card payment...ended up being $17, 30 min journey with added whining. Meh. (Ironically the guy I was staying with is a taxi driver and now teaches other drivers. He despairs about some of the attitudes guys have.)

Bangkok, Bali and so forth are dead cheap but if the meter don't work, get out. Mexico City...hmmmm...I'd stick to the excellent public transport...
posted by i_cola at 7:27 AM on November 4, 2010

I found taking a cab in Cairo to be a terrifying experience. The cabs are all ancient models of unspecified make (they looked like Soviet Fiats to me), and while there were meters they were in a laughable state of disrepair. I actually saw a meter with both a spring AND a cogwheel sticking out at jaunty angles.

Apparently the ritual is this: you know how much the ride should cost, and so does the cabby. You get in the cab, tell him the address, and neither of you talk about price. When you finally arrive, he quotes a price that is approximately his monthly income, and then YOU get out of the cab, throw the correct fare at him, and run away. If he doesn't chase you, you got it right.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:33 AM on November 4, 2010 [12 favorites]

Actually I do have one totally fantastic NYC taxi experience. My gf & I were heading home to the UK via JFK and were waiting for the E train. Of course the line is out on a Sunday afternoon & nobody is doing anything smart like, I don't know, announcing to the 200 people waiting on the platform. After a while I legged it up to the info booth to find out that we were stuck as far as the subway.

It was getting late and we were cutting it fine for check-in so we dragged all of our stuff to the street, hailed a cab and told him we had to be at JFK in under 30 minutes. Challenge accepted.

He headed out via La Guardia & Flushing / Shea topping 110mph for a lot of the way. We made it with time to spare. We tipped heavily.
posted by i_cola at 7:35 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is this where we complain about DC cabs? Because they are the worst I've ever taken on four continents. Rude drivers, smelly old cabs (that break down all the time), plus they nearly run over pedestrians on a pretty regular basis.

It's not all Mr. T and hijinks, is what I'm saying.
posted by JoanArkham at 7:47 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I guess a lot of these prices will look high due to the current weakness of the US dollar (which explains hal_c_on's mention of prices in Auckland vs the USA).

I found taking a cab in Cairo to be a terrifying experience... Apparently the ritual is this: you know how much the ride should cost, and so does the cabby. You get in the cab, tell him the address, and neither of you talk about price. When you finally arrive, he quotes a price that is approximately his monthly income, and then YOU get out of the cab, throw the correct fare at him, and run away. If he doesn't chase you, you got it right.

Hmm, the few cabs I took, we negotiated prices first. My approach ended up being: bargain the guy down to a reasonable (though still touristy) price, and then tip him quite well. Yours sounds like more fun, though.

Only really dishonest taxi driver I've ever had was in Sydney Australia. Took me on a massively roundabout route that cost me about double (deliberately, not because he got lost).
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:07 AM on November 4, 2010

Excellent website, thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 8:08 AM on November 4, 2010

One model is where the driver is just an operator. They rent the taxi for a shift for a flat fee, and they only pay for gas and based on fares either make money or they don't. This isn't great, but doesn't require the overhead of buying and maintaining a licensed taxi.

This is the most common set-up in cities where I have lived. As well, in some Canadian cities (Toronto, to take an example) there is the somewhat controversial system of taxi plates. To operate legally as a taxi in Toronto, you must have a plate affixed to the vehicle.

These were, as I understand it, originally issued as a sort of insurance policy, so that if a taxi driver died, his widows and orphan could get some compensation by selling his plate to another driver, or leasing it out. Over the years, these things gradually wound up in the hands of a very few people and corporations. Since 1998 it has been a requirement that to buy a plate you must be a driver, but as the plates fetch $150,000 to $200,000, few new drivers can afford this. Instead, most are leasing them at ruinous rates.

I know cabbies who, on a slow night, take home twenty bucks for twelve hours work. One of the things you see as a cabbie when you drive at night in a big city is (a) where the hookers go and (b) where the drugs go. It is not uncommon for cab drivers to supplement their income by taking up secondary employment with operators in these fields either.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:29 AM on November 4, 2010

I took a minicab in Manchester once - we never took taxis (Manchester has a good bus network) but we were going to a party in Moss Side in costume and thought it would be safe. The driver couldn't find the address. We told him to look it up in an A-Z. He took one out of the glove compartment and started opening it at random to see if he happened to see the area, and we had to show him how to use it.

I can count the number of London taxi rides I've taken in five years on one hand. Most of those were because I had a broken foot and public transport is impassible on crutches in a rude city.
posted by mippy at 8:34 AM on November 4, 2010

Addis Ababa taxis rawk. There are a lot of Ladas (though a good few Toyotas also) which somehow get through the mayhem of the streets. They're best arranged on a retainer basis - give the guy a call when you're ready to go and pay him a negotiated amount at the end of the day.
posted by Myeral at 9:18 AM on November 4, 2010

My favourite cab experience was in Seattle. Took cabs going from and to the airport, and got the cabbies to sing Hindi songs both times. Neither was Indian; one was Ethiopian and another Pakistani.

Singapore is where it is at its most convenient; you register your location either through SMS or an iPhone interface, and you'll have a cab three minutes later. Depending on when you take a cab, and what route you take, the pricing will vary. For instance, I just got back from the downtown; because of a combination of timings and route, I had to pay S$6 in surcharges for a S$4 flagdown fare. Feel free to chat up with the cabbies, but bear in mind that most are lonely souls stuck in this air-conditioned box of theirs for 12 hours straight, and often can't stop gossiping even when you no longer want to talk.

Also, never never never get into a cab in KL or Bangkok with the meter stopped. KL cabbies can and will get away with murder if they can; it's always safer to hail a passing empty cab, than to get one of them lazy dudes hanging out at a taxi-stand. If you have to bargain, don't do more than RM 20, unless you're going to the airport, in which case RM 70++ is generally acceptable. You shouldn't spend more than 100 Baht in BKK.

Unless you're stuck within a five km radius, cabs are generally cheaper than auto-rickshaws in Hyderabad.
posted by the cydonian at 9:27 AM on November 4, 2010

I suppose this is where I drag out my worst cab experience ever story. For the tl;dr crowd, it cost me £90 ($140), I walked the last half an hour in the rain, and got home at 05:00 in the morning.

Actually, this was a really, really terrible day overall, so I'll tell the whole story.

When I lived in London, I lived pretty much opposite the Barbican Centre (which is a huge, brutalist structure to the north west of the centre of City of London (i.e. the financial district). I should mention now that I was a student at the time, which will help explain my reaction even more so later on. Anyway, my room was operated by a swipe card. The situation when I moved in was that there was someone living on-site with a master card, so if you locked yourself out you rang them up, they popped upstairs and let you back into your room - no big deal. They decided to axe that policy, replacing it with an external security firm who you had to call and then pay £40.

It's 10:30 on Saturday morning. I'm meeting some friends at midday to watch a sporting event, before we all move on to a restaurant as it is someone's birthday. It promises to be a great day all round.

I lock myself out at 10:35, and immediately call the security firm. If I hadn't needed to go out, I would've crashed with a friend and asked to be let back in during office hours (only £5), but since I had to go out and I was still in my pyjamas I had little choice.

The notice re: security firm had said that they would arrive within an hour. I planned to do my best barrack's lawyer impression if that wasn't the case, so much so that when it ticked round to 58 minutes since I called, I was actively hoping that he wouldn't turn up. Sadly, he turned up, and I handed over my £40. Already an expensive day.

I let myself back in, changed and left. The sporting event was over in Fulham, which meant that there was no way in hell I was making it all the way across London before midday. But, rocked up late, found my friends.

*time passes, location changes to restaurant in Putney, which is south of the river*

We've finished our meal (and our drinks), and decide to head to the pub. We drink some more. There are now three of us left. Myself, a good male friend, and a good female friend. Good male friend, I suspect, had thought in the general chaos of people drunkenly leaving a crowded pub that he was the only person left. So he's chatted up a Brazilian tourist. We drink some more, and he's bought various spirits for everyone once he's realised he's not alone.

It is now closing time. We head ensemble, Brazilian in tow, to the bus stop to get the night bus (this is a fantastic part of London which I adore).

Male friend and Brazilian are now kissing. Male friend has now hailed a cab. Male friend has left.

Male friend was the only one who really knew where we were, and female friend is pretty drunk.

Night bus arrives. We get on. I'm feeling ok about this situation - we'll take the bus to Trafalgar Square, female friend will get her bus, I'll get mine, no problem.

Night bus is going past places I don't really recognise, but then again I don't know this area of London at all and it's dark.

Night bus stops. End of the line.

We were now further south, having been on the wrong side of the road when we took the bus. Luckily, we hop on the last bus going north, and soon are back where we were. We then get the correct bus to Trafalgar. Female friend is asleep on my shoulder.

The bus stops at Trafalgar, and we hop out. The plan is to find female friend's bus stop, make sure she's safely on the bus, then part ways. This plan is perfect, but for the fact that female friend doesn't know where her bus stop is (they're dotted around Trafalgar Square).

"I think it's this way!" she exclaims, as we lurch towards Whitehall. It wasn't.

"Actually, it's closer to Charing Cross" she states. We trudge towards Charing Cross. We're outside Charing Cross.

"We're almost there" she says, "it's by Charing Cross. Just a little bit further".

I tell her to look right, at Charing Cross station. This throws her only for a second.

"Oh, it's further on".

We're almost at LSE (so a fair way up the Strand, call it a ten to fifteen minute walk), when I start to question my friend's London knowledge, specifically re: bus stops.

I decide that the safest thing to do is to grab a cab, so pop to a cash point and take out £40. Hailing a cab, my friend tells the cabbie her address. It's relatively close to Greenwich Park. Google Maps informs me that's 8.6 miles, but at the time all I knew was that it was a fucking long way away.

Friend has again fallen asleep, so I'm left to bitterly watch the meter tick over inexorably. It's dark, raining, and I'm looking at being appreciably poorer before the night is through.

The journey takes up to half an hour. We arrive at our destination. I wake my friend, and ask her if this is her house. It was. She hops out the cab. She offers to pay, but sadly has no money. We say goodnight and part.

I'm still in Greenwich. I tell the cabbie to drive to London bridge, and drop me off there. However, we'll need to stop at a cash point first, as I'm haemorrhaging money. There's a nervy moment in a petrol station fore-court as my card is declined due to insufficient funds, but I lower my demands and resolve to keep an even beadier eye on the meter.

Trying to be a bit friendly, I strike up a conversation with a cabby. He mentions that his son swims. I mention the Gladwell theory about 10,000 hours of practice making an expert, or whatever it was. This now makes me the worlds leading sports coach, or something, and I desperately try to retreat back into the comforting silence rather than have to pronounce on his son's training regimen.

He mentions, by the way, that he would've been happy for me to spend the night in Greenwich, since he lives there as well and had been hoping that the first leg of our journey would've been the last. So I've got a slightly resentful cab driver on my hands as well.

The meter's still ticking over with alarming regularity, and we seem to be ever so unlucky with the lights this evening (now morning).

We reach London Bridge, and I exit the cab, parting with £90 in the process.

It's raining. Hard.

I've still got a couple of miles to go. I'm pretty drenched by the time I cross the river, so it's not looking good. It's also 04:30, and I'm feeling very worse for wear.

To cut the remainder short, I go home via Liverpool St station, where the timing is such that McDonald's have rolled out the breakfast menu. I eat two egg McMuffins to keep me warm and give me sustenance.

I make it home, strip off my sodden clothes, and get into bed, setting my alarm for my 10:00 meeting with my sister the next morning.
posted by djgh at 10:18 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

$0.90 – $1.58 Delhi, India

Unless things have changed drastically in the last ten years, that should really be appended "or what the market will bear" for visitors. Same with this:

3km auto-rickshaw ride 0.45 - 0.91

Paharganj - the main backpacker hostel ghetto near the Delhi train station - is about 1km from the centre of Connaught Place. After months of multiple negotiations with increasing skill, mrs gompa and I were pretty consistently able to get that ride for Rs. 10 (about 25 cents). Once, miraculously, we found a rickshaw wallah willing to actually run his meter (99.97% of the city's taxi and rickshaw meters were "broken"). Turns out it should've cost like Rs. 6 or something like that.

And that said, we started out paying more like Rs. 20-30 for the ride, and we heard of foreigners paying as much as Rs. 150 (four bucks or so). Which is why all too often the negotiation would begin with us asking, "Connaught Place - how much?"

Rickshaw wallah: "100 rupees."

Us: [gales of laughter and confident stroll off toward next rickshaw]

Rickshaw wallah: "No! Sir! 50 rupees! Thirty!"

You could usually get down to 20 rupees simply by not breaking stride. To get down to ten, it helped to be able to say the number in Hindi. But there was certainly no fixed range. Pure capitalism, really.
posted by gompa at 10:20 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

as the plates fetch $150,000 to $200,000, few new drivers can afford this. Instead, most are leasing them at ruinous rates.

That makes sense; if the number of plates (in NYC they're "medallions") are fixed, then you would expect the market price for one to be the net present value of the income stream of one taxi. It's a pretty common microeconomics 101 problem.

In NYC they sometimes fetch upwards of $500k. There are some reserved for owner-operators (the owner of the medallion has to drive the cab a certain amount of time but can then lease it out the rest of the time) and some which can be held by associations. I think Boston's system is similar.

Compared to cities that don't have a medallion system (looking at you, DC) which often have a lot of poorly-maintained cabs, it may suck for the operators but as a taxi user I'm all for it.

(At least they finally got rid of that damn zone system. I used to call cabs from Arlington just to avoid that crap.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:09 AM on November 4, 2010

My friends and I take cabs into and out of Seattle a lot when we're partying and the vast majority are on their phones yelling at people, but one experience sticks out.

About a year ago, the driver was playing a public radio episode of This American Life about the financial collapse (called Another Frightening Show about the Economy). We had a conversation about the implications the entire way. After being ignored by drivers for years, it was incredible. It actually made our night.

Naturally, we gave him a larger than normal tip, and have never had a driver who hasn't been on his cell phone the entire drive since then.

Truly, he was a rare find, and every time we call a cab we hope it will be him who picks us up. It never is.
posted by apranica at 11:11 AM on November 4, 2010

New York taxi drivers are cheaper but can worryingly clueless outside the standard grid.

New York City cab drivers are, much like their London counterparts, required to know how to get to any location in the city. Of course, since we don't have the time honored system of The Knowledge, the reality is that your average driver tends to know how to get anywhere in Manhattan, most middle class or trendy parts of Brooklyn, and the easy parts of Queens and the Bronx. So, probably about 50% of what they're supposed to. But it's sort of an understood conundrum.

It only drives me crazy when the driver doesn't know how to get to a place that is clearly within the accepted standard, and is a total dick about being forced to go to, like, Downtown Brooklyn. New York is actually an extremely easy city to navigate, even outside the grid, and it drives me CRAZY when they are like this.
posted by Sara C. at 11:23 AM on November 4, 2010

I've taken a bunch of taxis in Philadelphia and Wilmington, DE. Philly is cheaper. I've never gotten any scam worse than the "sorry, no change" gambit when travelling by taxi.

The interesting thing about the Wilmington cabs are the queue of them at the train station, where one can find a dozen cabs from a dozen companies at peak times.

I tried to get in a random one once, and the driver shoo'd me away and told me I had to take the one of the front of the line.

The surprising part is there is no taxi attendant or even a proper taxi stand there. The "front of the line rule" rule is enforced by the cabbies themesleves. Their is truly honor among cabbies (or at least, peer pressure).
posted by mreleganza at 11:26 AM on November 4, 2010

Apparently a car that has been converted to a taxi has been "hacked-up". File that in the fun facts box.
posted by smackfu at 11:59 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

That makes sense; if the number of plates (in NYC they're "medallions") are fixed, then you would expect the market price for one to be the net present value of the income stream of one taxi.

The market is a weird thing when it comes to taxis. Almost two years ago in Ottawa we had a transit strike that lasted essentially from early December until the end of January. As Ottawa sees a lot of snow around that time of year and is quite spread out -- the urban area alone is over 500 km^2 -- one would naturally think that the taxis would be the beneficiaries of this strike.

In fact, no. Every cabby I talked to was hurting because of several things. First: more cars on the road from drivers who might have taken transit usually meant thicker and slower traffic. Usually Ottawa cabbies get six or seven fares and hour during rush hour. During the strike, it was more like two.

The other thing was a weird negative feedback loop between customers and dispatchers. As wait times for cabs increased, people who really needed to get somewhere realized that their cab was going to take longer, so they would call multiple cab companies for a taxi. Call five companies, that is five times the chance that you will get to work on time. On the other hand, because few people would jump into their cabs and call back the other four companies to cancel, this meant that many cabs were arriving to do a pickup fro someone who was not there -- a dead fare.

Cab company owners in turn saw their revenues dropping and pressured dispatchers to get cabs to respond to every call at speed, and if that one was a dead fare, go on to the next one. This meant cabbies were reluctant to pick up flags (i.e. people on the street trying to flag them down) because who knows if a flag is going where you are headed already? And because passengers are frustrated at the wait times, you cannot really ask a passenger to get back out and wait for another cab.

The net result after two months: if you call a cab, maybe it comes in 45 minute or maybe you wait two hours for it to arrive, or maybe three. If you try to hail one in the street, the driver will ignore you. From the cabbie's point of view, you careen back and forth all over the city chasing dead fares and making no money.

It is mighty frustrating when your check-in time for your flight is creeping closer and closer while you watch a hundred empty taxis an hour go past you.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:18 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been afraid of taking cabs since my high school girlfriend, Lurleen, and I went to see Cyndi Lauper in the stinking concrete splendor of Ritchie Coliseum back in '84. We hitchhiked to College Park, another terrifying exposition for a sheltered guy from Scaggsville, and as I sat in the back of some stranger's car filled with menthol smoke and the cartoonish tendrils of an over-application of Aqua Velva, I constantly planned how I'd leap out and roll to safety if the driver made a move to rape and/or murder us.

It was my first large-scale superstar rock concert, distinct from being snuck into the Pyramid and from the exotic artistry of the strange music I was being fed from my bohemian sister who lived next to Veniero's in the Village. Joe "King" Carrasco opened the show, loudly and to my great annoyance, then Cyndi and her band rocked the place. We jumped up and down and screamed like little girls. Afterward, we were among the last to leave, and all I could think about was that it looked like every single person in the crowd had abandoned their umbrellas, littering the beer-soaked concrete floors like the casualties of a civil war fought by bats.

We waited outside for the star to emerge, to touch the hem, as it were, but nothing happened. Lurleen took the initiative, we somehow ended up on a fire escape and climbed through a window and ran the gauntlet to get to the green room, and I watched my high school girlfriend do a line of cocaine with a roadie. I was scandalized, but part of me felt like I was in a French film, and I loved French films, so I just sort of went with it.

Worse, by the time Cyndi, band, and entourage had jetted off to their hotel, it was well into the wee hours and neither of us had more than pocket change. Lurleen called a cab, which just struck me as insane, given that College Park was about fifteen miles from home, and we waited, still buzzing from the show and the exploits afterward, climbed in a foul-smelling Caprice, and rode back to Scaggsville.

We whispered in the car, trying to work out what to do, and managed to get the cabbie suspicious, so he wouldn't let Lurleen out when he pulled up at my house. I tiptoed in, my hair almost standing on end from anxiety, found my father sleeping in his drawers in front of a staticky TV, and carefully extracted his wallet from his pants, which were hanging over a chair. I didn't have the whole thirty-three dollars, just the thirty from the wallet, and I emerged with the cash and a coffee can full of pennies, nickels, and dimes.

"What am I supposed to do with this?" the cabbie asked. "You owe me thirty-three bucks, not thirty bucks and a goddamn can full of pennies."

"It's all I've got. There should be more than enough in the can."

"You think I got time to sit around counting pennies, you little asshole?"

"I'll get the rest when you drop me off at home," Lurleen added, and leaned over to say something quiet to the driver, who scowled, then shrugged.

"Fuck it," he said. "Go on."

Lurleen had prepped me in the fine art of taking a cab without cash. You just get dropped off elsewhere, in a neighborhood nearby your home, and run for it. The Caprice pulled off, disappearing into the dark night, and I just stood there, wondering if she'd be in jail the next day, or if she'd even make it back to the safety of her trailer park.

"Did you run?" I asked, when she showed up at school.

"What?" she said, looking like she didn't quite understand the question. "Oh, no, I took care of it."

I didn't take another cab for twenty-five years, except when someone else was footing the bill and taking the initiative. Cabs just seem like a crazy expense for rich people, and an uncontrollable one that varies without rhyme or reason. Of course, I've lived near DC all my life, and the cabs in DC used to use a system so complex that Wittgenstein would have craved simplicity after trying to figure out the zone system.

On my most recent trip to NYC, when I was being paid to remove a fourteen foot pink poodle from the Bergdorf Goodman store, I casually mentioned that Veniero's has the best pastry in town and the most perfect bathrooms for penis narcissists and tried to talk her into walking down there for coffee, rum babas, and the penis narcissist bathroom tour.

"Are you fucking kidding me? That's miles!"

"It is?"

"Joe, you've got a real fucked-up sense of where things are."

"I know my way around. It's like I have a map in my head."

"Yeah, but your map is trippin' balls."

"Hey, why don't we take a cab!" I said, realizing that I was, in fact, being paid quite well to remove a fourteen foot pink poodle from Bergdorf Goodman, and that I could probably afford a cab. We took a break, hailed a cab, and I'll be damned if it wasn't real easy now. I paid with a credit card, right there, and didn't have to rob my dad or do whatever Lurleen did. It was pretty cheap for NYC, about half of what I paid for my round-trip ticket on the Bolt bus.

The coffee was lovely, the rum babas were as good as always, and my friend had to agree, standing next to me in the parodoxically cramped completely mirrored stall of the bathroom, that if you liked to look at your junk in there, you'd certainly enjoy the endless landscape of recursive reflections spreading out in every direction, only fading with the limitations of light.

"Umm, you know," I said.

"Don't take it out, Joe."

"No, I meant, umm, what I meant was..." I said, in a low growl, and raised an eyebrow.

She winced, laughed, and pulled up her shirt, and they were everywhere.
posted by sonascope at 2:29 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

My fondest memory of taking a taxi in Japan is spilling a chocolate ice cream cone on the brilliantly white doily.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:06 PM on November 4, 2010

Is this inclusive of ransom? I'd imagine the steepest prices may not be where you think.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:05 AM on November 5, 2010

A minicab from my house to the station costs £5 and it's a distance of 1 mile. I usually only take a taxi when I'm on my way to the airport to catch a flight to New York, a distance of 3,500 miles, the fare for which is about £175.

Taking a black cab in London is financial Russian roulette - you can sail through to your destination one day and pay just £15 or £20, and the same journey the next day will be gridlock, as you sit there watching the meter rack up and up and up. The last time I took a black cab, I was with a friend passing through London on his way back to Florida from China. We hailed a cab at Holborn station to take us to the Berner's Hotel, just over a mile away (he had a pile of luggage). By £35 we hadn't even reached Tottenham Court Road, and as he had no sterling on him and my cash was limited, we had to get out and walk the rest of the way.
posted by essexjan at 6:21 AM on November 5, 2010

I was expecting Vancouver to be higher up the list, but I guess that's about right.
posted by addelburgh at 7:47 PM on November 6, 2010

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