What Taxi Trip Data Tells Us About Mobility and Driver Welfare

Five passengers enter a yellow taxi just after midnight in the Lower East Side, seconds after the Times Square Ball drops on New Year’s Day 2017. They travel 4.25 miles to Bushwick, get out a little before 12:20—and data about their trip helps the City ensure everyone’s safety.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is the City agency that regulates over 185,000 drivers and over 130,000 vehicles-for-hire including yellow taxis, green taxis, and for-hire services like Uber and Lyft. Hop into any of these vehicles, and a record of your trip makes its way to the TLC. Taxi trip records are collected and provided by licensed Technology Service Providers, and for-hire trip records are collected and provided by licensed For-Hire Bases.

Your trip record is just one of billions of rows of data collected since 2008 that provide a window into the way New Yorkers get around our city—when they go, where they go, and how many people they go with. These records help TLC track down your belongings if you leave them behind in a taxi (and can’t remember its official license number). They also help identify drivers if you want to compliment one for exceptional service (or complain about poor service).

These billions of trip records, when aggregated and analyzed together, also allow the City to make policy changes that affect both those in the passenger’s seat and those in the driver’s seat. A string of trip records with the same driver can show the hours they have put in behind the wheel and the amount of money they are earning. Analyzed over the long-term, the City can see how drivers’ work hours and incomes have changed over time.

From there the City can take action. In 2017, New York City set limits on the number of hours drivers can spend on the road each day and each week to keep both drivers and passengers safe. Not only did the data inform the rules, it also helps TLC monitor and enforce the policy. More recently, the City Council passed legislation paving the way for rules to ensure fair compensation for hardworking for-hire vehicle drivers. The new laws also require the City to study ways to reduce congestion and protect driver income through regulation. Having the data allows TLC and the City to craft solutions based in fact. Making anonymized and aggregated versions of that data available on the Open Data Platform allows the public to see the impact.

After dropping off those five passengers on New Years’ Eve in Bushwick, the driver heads home to rest and be refreshed for a new day of work. Trip data can tell us not just stories of New Yorkers moving around but also stories about the people who provide those trips. With this data, the City not only ensures safe and equitable passenger service, but also the welfare of the over 185,000 licensed drivers.

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