Taxi TV may be pulled from cabs

To the delight of many passengers and drivers, Taxi TV may soon get yanked from cabs.

Backseat televisions in yellow cabs, which have long annoyed passengers and drivers, may finally be dumped by the city for a smartphone or tablet-based payment system, officials said yesterday. 

The screens were fully introduced in taxis almost seven years ago, and gave passengers the chance to pay their fare with a credit or debit card, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission. They also had software that captured trip data, which helped city planners and made it easier to return items forgotten in cabs.

Riders liked not having to pay for fares with cash anymore, but the television’s blaring audio is an oft-cited source of irritation. Worse, the mute and off buttons frequently don’t work.

Passengers and drivers have regularly complained to the TLC about Taxi TV — with grievances ranging from unresponsive screens to noisy, repetitive programs.

Apps such as Uber and Lyft have challenged yellow and green cabs with payment systems that don’t require swipes and automatically email a receipt to passengers. Riders have been increasingly opting for black and livery cars over yellow cabs, according to the TLC.

The agency’s board members will vote Thursday on a one-year pilot program that will test different technology to calculate taxi fares with a GPS-based meter, using satellite pings. Passengers would still be able to see their fare throughout the trip, and be able to use their credit cards safely.

“With so many advances in for-hire service tracking and payment, and years of feedback from passengers and drivers about what works and what needs improvement, it’s timely to give both existing and new technology providers an opportunity to test more streamlined systems,” said TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi.

“Just as NASA once needed thousands of square feet to house a computer that today fits on our wrist, the state of today’s technology offers us the opportunity to test solutions with all of the taxi technology’s benefits in a more streamlined single device,” said agency spokesman Allan Fromberg. “While achieving the primary goal of ‘retiring’ Taxi TV.”

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