New York City Taxi Activity from Juan Francisco Saldarriaga on Vimeo.
Above is an animation of yellow cab origins and destinations in New York City by time of day. This is drawn from some current research of mine where I am exploring the ways that taxi services complement conventional fixed route transit. In the video there are a couple of things to notice. First, and I argue most important from a planning perspective, is that taxi origins and destinations are geographically asymmetrical. This matters because it means that individual's travel journeys are multi-modal. If we want to have transit oriented cities we have to plan for high quality, door-to-door services that allow spontaneous one-way travel. Yet for all of the billions of dollars we have spent of fixed-route transit and the built environment we haven't spent any time thinking about how taxis (and related services) can help us reach our goals.
The second thing to look for changes by time of day. In the AM rush lots of Upper East Side travelers head to Midtown. (Origins and red and destinations are blue). By midday Midtown is largely in balance with origins and destinations. In the evening, there are many Manhattan to Queens and Brooklyn trips.
Here is the abstract of my current paper (with Jon Peters and Matt Daus):
Taxi services are critical aspects of urban transportation systems. Taxicabs serve the public in a variety of ways, from metered fares to informal jitneys, and provide critical mobility for people of all income levels. Despite the ubiquity of taxi service in cities, there is limited scholarly research that explores how people use taxi service to support transit-oriented lifestyles and enhance mobility, and there is scant research exploring the complementary aspects of taxi service for conventional transit. In this paper we argue that taxi service is a critical aspect of a transit system, and taxi usage exhibits complementary characteristics to conventional transit. Specifically, taxi usage is asymmetrical where origins and destinations have very different spatial distributions. This suggests that taxi riders have multi-modal travel journeys. In many cases taxi trips are part of journeys that began with transit trips, yet planning and expanding taxi service as an extension of transit networks is rarely undertaken in practice. We use regulatory and Global Positioning System (GPS) data from New York City as a case to demonstrate the asymmetrical nature of taxi usage and innovative regulatory approaches that foster high rates of taxi usage that complement transit ridership.