An exhausting day in the life of a New York City cab


(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Chris Whong, a data solutions architect at Socrata (and a civic hacker in his spare time), recently FOIA'd taxi trip data held by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission — a trove that turned up trip and fare data on 170 million taxi rides taken around New York City last year.

A massive dataset like that has the potential to answer all kinds of fascinating questions about urban mobility in general and the taxi industry in particular: How much do taxi drivers really make? Which parts of town get the best cab service? How much does the city earn taxing cab rides on a given day? How do patterns in travel shift from one day to the next, from weekday to weekend, from good weather to bad?

Whong has built a fantastic interactive that starts with a simpler question: What does a day in the life of one cab look like? His visualization has randomly animated 30 cab/days from the full dataset on a map of New York, giving a running tally of where each cab goes on a given day, and how many passengers, fares, taxes and tips it racks up. We've created a video of one of those days below, and you can play with the full visualization here. We've condensed what may have been the worst part of this cab's day — a four-hour stint sitting at Newark International Airport at lunchtime.

A new infographic by Chris Whong uses 2013 taxi trip data to show how and when taxis move around New York City. These excerpts from the Web site show the activity of a single taxi in one day. (Jhaan Elker and Kate M. Tobey/The Washington Post)

 

A couple of notes: More than one driver may take a shift driving the same cab over a 24-hour period. The original taxi data contains trip origin and destination locations, not precise routes between them, so Whong has used the Google Directions API to approximate the routes. And the data doesn't include cash tips, which aren't recorded as part of credit card transactions. So New Yorkers may be slightly more generous than this visualization suggests.

Emily Badger is a reporter for Wonkblog covering urban policy. She was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities.
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