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New York City Taxi Lights: 'Off Duty' Signals Atop Cabs To Be Replaced With Simpler System

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The Taxi and Limousine Commission voted Thursday to simplify the confusing light system atop city cabs. Whereas the current two-light system can signify four different levels of availability, the new single-light system will be much, much easier to understand: If the light's on, the cab's available. If it's off, it's not.

The vote for the measure was nearly unanimous Thursday morning, according to Capital New York.

(The one dissenting vote was from Iris Weinshall, who you may remember as the city's former transportation commissioner, bike lane enemy number one, and as Senator Chuck Schumer's wife.)

“I think most New Yorkers see the off-duty light as something that doesn’t clearly communicate what they need to know, which is very simply, ‘is this cab available?’" said TLC Commissioner David Yassky. "At best, people see it as a relic of the past, and at worst it provides an opportunity for drivers to cherry pick passengers. I think a simple, clear system that says, ‘the light is on, you can flag down this cab,’ or ‘the light is off, so it’s unavailable,’ is better for everybody, and that’s what we wanted to accomplish.”

Cabbies will be required to have the new lighting system installed by their next inspection, between January 1 and April 30. Until then, if you're not familiar with the current lighting system, here are the rules:

1) If the center light's on, the cab's in service. Take it. Put your hand up. Whistle! Maybe though, don't tell him or her that you're going to Brooklyn.

2) If nothing's lit, the cab's occupied or out of service. Don't bother. Maybe you've been upstreamed.

3) If the "Off Duty" light is on, then the cabby's off-duty. Don't bother him or her. He or she's probably had a long day.

4) And lastly (and we didn't know about this one), if all the lights are lit then the cabbie is off-duty and headed back to the garage. BUT! If you're going his or her way, he or she will probably give you a lift.

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