Improve your chances of getting a cab

Sometimes, it’s easy to catch a cab. Three or four pass by, and all you have to do is get the attention of one of them. Contrast that, however, with a rainy day in Manhattan at 5:30 PM. You and the rest of the world want 35 blocks of yellow car bliss, and most will be disappointed. Fortunately, there are now a few ways you can take control of your transportational fate.

I remember taking the train from New York to Boston a few years ago. A blizzard brought LaGuardia to a standstill, and I had no other choices. I realized about an hour from South Station that the entire train would be hunting taxis desperately in a city not known for swarms of them clogging the streets. So, I called a taxi company from my neighborhood (East Boston, at the time) and gave the simple instruction: “Don’t let anyone in unless they give my name.” The driver understood … and promptly let the word out that there was an insane amount of business.

Without that call, I’d still be waiting for a ride from Southie to Eastie.

Of course, that’s an extreme case. Everyday life provides enough challenges. Hailing a taxi on the street is the baseline, though some cities use taxi stands instead. If you’re out in the ‘burbs, reach out and touch some one. Calling for a taxi not only adds a bit of predictability, it lets the driver know a bit about you. Details such as home or work address and phone number can come in handy if a fare turns into trouble.

Instead of using the phone to talk, you could take advantage of new technology (such as Taxi Magic for the iPhone). Tap the screen a few times, and you can book your next ride. Taxi Magic is available in 25 cities in the United States. Sadly, though, New York is not among them.

In any city, iPhone or not, bad weather or periods of high demand could leave you frustrated – and stranded. The temptation to take a ride from a “bandit” (i.e., an unlicensed cab) can be pretty high. After all, you just want to get from A to B. Fight the urge! These rides are illegal … and for good reason. Unlike licensed taxi drivers, bandits aren’t checked for criminal histories and drug use. The cars aren’t inspected, and they may not even be insured. Roll the dice if you like, but understand that the stakes are high. All you get for winning is a trip home.

[Via CNN, photo by Brian Sayler]