“Cabbies are the city’s ambassadors. They are the first people to greet people getting off the airplane or coming out of the train station,” said Sgt. Hector Corchado, head of Newark’s taxi division. “The ultimate goal is to satisfy the customer, and we have to do that by professionalizing the service we offer.”
The commission also wants a uniform graphic design for the city’s mishmash of yellow cabs, and by 2012, it wants most of its fleet to be composed of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. The makeover also includes making sure drivers have insurance. Hundreds were driving with expired insurance previously because no one was checking, Corchado said.
“There was a lack of accountability,” Corchado said.
My wife’s reply when I read the above quote, “They can start by running the meters.” Our experiences with Newark cabbies have always been weird, if not outright sketchy.
The most awful of them was coming back from a Broadway show with friends three years ago. It was late, and a homeless man held open the cab door for us outside of Penn Station. When he asked for a tip, I refused and he threatened to meet me in a dark alley with a baseball bat before slamming the door. The cabbie wanted to charge us $15 to go ten blocks, which we were able to negotiate down, but were treated to a meandering ride through the Ironbound — without the meter running, of course. It was an embarrassing and disheartening nightmare.
Since then, things have been markedly better — I haven’t had my life threatened again — but I’ve still found the occasional cabbie who can’t find his way to Broad Street Station from Penn Station (no tip for that one), or charges random rates for the same trip. It’s an open secret that the Gold Lincoln drivers on the Ironbound side of the station tend to be more reasonable and sane if you don’t mind practicing your Spanish.
The GPS is also an important feature for a job that can sometimes be very dangerous. Newark cab drivers have been the victims of numerous violent crimes, some of which have been fatal. Being able to pinpoint a location once they hit the panic button will be an important way to deter these sorts of crimes.
All that to say, I welcome the changes and am looking forward to climbing into one for a quick ride across the city without fearing for getting cheated or worse.