The Taxi-Taker’s Crib Sheet

Photo: Mitchell Funk/Getty Images

Two times, other than rush hour, when you should just take the subway:

4 to 5 p.m., during the shift change
“There could be a $25 late charge if we’re not back to the garage in time.” —Marcus Olaleye, driver

4 to 6 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays
“There’s a surge of people leaving the clubs, it’s the morning shift change at 5 a.m., and many day drivers take the weekends off, so the normal number of cabs hitting the streets is reduced.” —Eugene Salomon, driver and blogger (Cabs Are for Kissing, Pictures From a Taxi)

Ten places you can always hail a taxi:

Clinton Street
“It’s the main thoroughfare—a driver coming from anywhere in Brooklyn will go there because it’s easy to get down and you can make the left onto Atlantic to get to Manhattan.” —John ­McDonagh, driver and blogger (Hack Shots of New York)

Lexington Avenue and East 28th Street near Curry in a Hurry
“It’s popular with cabbies; you can usually catch one who just finished a meal break.”

Bergen Street
“There’s a garage here between Third and Fourth Avenues in Brooklyn, so it’s a good catch-out point all the way through to Smith Street.” —Gil Alvineri, driver and blogger (Taxicab and Shoestring, Tips for NYC Taxi Drivers)

East 1st Street and First Avenue near Punjabi Deli
“Cabbies come here because they let them use the bathroom. Plus, it’s 24 hours.” —Melissa Plaut, part-time cabdriver and author of Hack: How I Stopped Worrying About What to Do With My Life and Started Driving a Yellow Cab

By the four Free Bridges
“You can always find a cab where they touch ground: For the 59th Street Bridge, 59th and Second Avenue or 63rd and Second Avenue; for the Williamsburg Bridge, Delancey Street between Norfolk and Allen Streets; for the Manhattan Bridge, Canal and Bowery or Canal and Chrystie; and for the Brooklyn Bridge, Centre and Chambers.” —Salomon

West 14th Street and Ninth Avenue
“There are always people from the bars here. It’s easy to circle around until you get a fare.” —Hasan Khondoker, driver

Where to grab a cab going uptown during the morning rush:

Fifth Avenue
“From 8 a.m. to noon, everyone downtown is trying to go uptown and they’re all looking on the uptown streets. Those cabs are already taken. But after they drop off, they fly down Fifth to get back to the Village for their next fare.” —McDonagh

Two ways to get a ride during shift change:

Head to a gas station
“The biggest one in Manhattan is the Hess station at 45th and Tenth. There are others on Tenth Avenue, at 24th and 36th Streets. Also: Houston and Lafayette, 96th and First Avenue, 96th between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, 110th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.” —Salomon

Offer a big tip up front
“I’ve gotten cabs at 4 p.m. in the rain by taking $20 out of my pocket, waving it at a driver, and mouthing the word tip.” —Ron Wood, passenger

How to get a taxi on the busiest nights of the year:

Get a number
“On New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween, I talk up any and every cabdriver I meet and ask if they’d be willing to pick me up later that night. You’d be surprised how many have business cards or will exchange numbers with you, and nine out of ten times, they show up for the return trip.” —Sara Glassman, passenger

How to get a cab to take you to a far-flung place:

Go for the stomach
“I once sweet-talked a cabbie into driving me to Staten Island by offering to buy her food along the way at a McDonald’s drive-through.” —Steven Lowell, passenger

Talk in intervals
“I say, ‘It’s just over the Williamsburg Bridge, and then I can direct you from there.’ It makes the trek seem less like an odyssey.” —Natalie Guevara, passenger and Bedford-Stuyvesant resident

How to catch a cab in the rain:

Find a hotel
“I tip the doorman—doesn’t everyone? I note the name on his tag and greet him warmly, as if he should know me. Since most people only tip a buck or two, holding a clearly visible five works even better.” —Barry Maher, passenger

Three topics cabbies like talking about:
According to Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial Corp

The weather
“It’s a great icebreaker and noncontroversial.”

The business
“They frequently say how hard the job is. Don’t get me wrong—it is a very hard job—but they like pity. They think it will lead to bigger tips.”

Their lives before they were drivers
“A lot of these guys have stories to tell. You hear how they came to America and how much they have had to overcome in their homelands to get here. According to them, they were all rocket scientists or brain surgeons back home.”

How to get a chatty driver to shut it:

Ask them to turn on 1010 WINS
“I pretend I want to hear the traffic—for their sake.” —Cindy Augustine, passenger

Two fastest routes to JFK:

Take Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, then turn left on Highland. Take that to Miller Avenue, turn right, follow Miller to Atlantic, and turn left. Make a right on Conduit South and you’re basically there.” —Plaut

Take the Midtown Tunnel to the LIE till you get to the Maurice Avenue exit. Get on the service road to Woodhaven Boulevard, which eventually becomes Cross Bay Boulevard. Take that to the Nassau Expressway, and then—bam!—you’re at JFK.” —Joslin Fenelus, driver

The fastest way to La Guardia:
According to Terence Gelber, driver and author of NYC Taxi Driver Knowledge & Route Book

Take 34th Street east to FDR North to the Triborough [RFK] Bridge to Grand Central Parkway.”

And if there’s traffic on the Grand Central? “Get off and onto Astoria Boulevard, much of which runs parallel to Grand Central and can be accessed from the northbound.”

When to tip your driver more than 20 percent:
According to Edward Leavy Jr., driver and blogger (King of New York Hacks)

If you eat in the cab
“Something is always left behind, and I have to spray air-freshener after.”

If you use the cabdriver’s cell phone illicitly
“Like to call the person you are cheating on your spouse with. I’ve experienced this with males and females.”

If you need to visit an ATM while they wait
“Sometimes they have no money in the ATM either, but that’s the risk we take.”

If the driver lets you smoke
“It’s a big fine for us should we get caught.”

How to hail a cab late at night:

Hold up your cell phone
“That’s helped me see people down side streets that I would have passed had they only had a hand up.” —Leavy

When a cabbie tells you his credit-card machine is “broken:”

Play dumb, and try it anyway
“When they tell me upfront, I say ‘Okay.’ Then when they turn off the meter, I swipe my card and act like I misunderstood. It’s never once been broken.” —Kimberly Fusaro, passenger

How to tame a speed demon:

Pretend you’re with child
“I’ve told taxi drivers that I’m pregnant and nauseous so I need them to drive less crazy. It seems to work, and as a bonus they don’t talk to me because they know I’m feeling sick.” —Patty Adams Martinez, passenger

The Taxi-Taker’s Crib Sheet