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Does New York City Need More Taxis?

Jul 31, 2012 (All Things Considered)

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The City of New York is planning to add 2,000 more yellow taxi cabs onto its streets. They'll be wheelchair accessible and raise a bunch of money for the city. The new licenses could fetch up to $1 billion at auction. And the hope is that the extra taxis will make life better for the many New Yorkers without cars.

Charles Komanoff disagrees. The transport economist has been analyzing the city's traffic patterns for almost 40 years. He argues that putting more cabs on the streets will actually slow down traffic — so much so that it would cost travelers not just time but also money.

True, it would be easier to find a cab. But Komanoff argues that all those extra cabs would slow down traffic by 12 percent in the city. And they wouldn't just slow down traffic for their passengers. They would slow it down delivery trucks, buses, private cars — everyone.

Komanoff has been collecting data about New York City's traffic patterns in a massive spreadsheet. In the data you can find every lane on every road in the heart of Manhattan. He calls his data trove the Balanced Transport Analyzer.

He figures the slowdown due to the new cabs would cost the city $500 million a year in lost time.

We'll have to wait to see if Komanoff's predictions will come true. The decision to add more cabs in New York is now being challenged in court.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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