Linda Poon is an assistant editor at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
A pilot program will remove the squawking screens from 1,000 cabs.
New Yorkers will tell you: One of the most aggravating things in taxis are those TV screens in the backseat, blaring the same ads over and over again, or relentlessly asking you the same trivia question. (For the umpteenth time, I don’t care which mayor decided that the city’s cabs should be painted yellow—but, for the record, it’s John Lindsay.)
A 2011 survey of 22,000 taxi riders found that the screens were among the top passenger complaints, second only to high fare costs. So people rejoiced when the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission board unanimously voted on Thursday to remove the TV screens from a thousand taxi cabs in a new yearlong pilot program.
RIP taxi tv i hate you so much— Deanna Kali (@Deanna_Kali) October 15, 2015
The TVs were originally introduced between 2006 and 2008 as a way to update passengers with news and public announcements, double as a payment system, and to ease the boredom of a long taxi ride. But many riders say they immediately reach for the off or mute buttons, which are often broken.
In the screens’ place will be new, less obtrusive devices that will function largely as payment portals, relying on a GPS-based meter to enable customers to pay via a smartphone or tablet. Four companies will test out new technology in the pilot program. The end goal is phase out the TVs in all of NYC’s 13,500 cabs.
But there’s at least one group who isn’t thrilled about their removal: people with visual impairments, who often rely on the TVs for spoken instructions. Speaking to the local news, Audrey Schading, a woman who is blind, said the TVs are her way of knowing how much the fare is. Complaints from visually-impaired riders convinced the TLC to scale back the pilot program from 4,000 to 1,000 cabs.
Some New Yorkers feel that removing the screens is an extreme solution—and others lament that they won’t get to master their trivia skills, or make a cameo on the endless loop:
@amNewYork I like taxi TV. There should just be a bit more variation in the programming and the buttons should work.— Pieter Steijger (@PSteijger) October 16, 2015
nooooooo they're getting rid of taxi tv before i have achieved my dream of appearing on it!!!! http://t.co/p3jXOEscYr— Alanna Okun (@alanna) October 15, 2015