New York's fleet of iconic yellow taxis are still the city's reliable, non-surge priced transportation backbone. Its 13,500 medallion taxis make 170 million trips a year, every single one of them mapped in this beautiful new visualization from the folks at the MIT Senseable City Lab. The interactive map isn't just here to be pretty—it's also the data behind a strategy to make riding taxis way more efficient.
HubCab, as the project is called, maps every taxi ride from 2011, with yellow marking pickup points and blue drop-off points. Immediately, the streets of Manhattan, arterial roads, and the loops of airports light up in yellow. In this close-up of JFK International Airport, you can even make out the terminal's arrival and departure zones.
Play around in the interactive version of HubCab, and it immediately becomes obvious how many of these trips are redundant. In fact, according to the researchers, the number of taxi rides in New York could be reduced by 40% if people going to and from the same places were simply willing to share taxis.
To highlight the benefits of sharing cabs, routes are marked with estimated savings in money, mileage, and emissions. Given how many taxis are driving around in New York City, even a fraction of that 40% makes a difference. A smartphone app that feeds taxi requests into a centralized system and matches up riders could make taxis a lot more efficient.
Of course, this is a bit—maybe more than a bit—idealized. Cab drivers already competing with Uber and its like have little incentive to cut down on their number of fares. But fewer cars on the road means less traffic and pollution; in the big picture, it makes sense. We already do this to some extent, like an airports when waits are long and fares expensive.