Mental Maps Yield to GPS for Taxi Drivers

In the old days, every taxi driver in New York City was required to prove at least a basic working knowledge of the city's streets and landmarks. A new licensing exam does away with geography, assuming that taxis will rely on GPS.
March 26, 2015, 11am PDT | Josh Stephens | @jrstephens310
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For many years, the New York City taxi licensing exam include up to 80 questions requiring aspiring cabbies to prove that they can navigate one of the world's largest, most complicated street systems. On the newest version of the exam, though, geographic knowledge has taken a back seat. 

City officials say that the taxi industry is just keeping up with the times, since many cabbies use GPS and wayfinding apps. Some speculate, though, that the exam had to become easier in order to compete with drivers who would otherwise drive for services like Uber and Lyft, which have relatively minimal licensing requirements. Pass rates on the new exam have increased 20 percent over the old exam.

Whether New York's famously demanding passengers will stand for a professional driver who has to consult a map remains an open question. 

"You can’t lower the bar so much that new drivers don’t know where they’re going,” one New Yorker told the New York Times. “When you don’t know the city, it’s a big disadvantage. If this means new drivers aren’t going to know where Radio City Music Hall is, that’s unforgivable."

 

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Published on Sunday, March 8, 2015 in New York Times
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