You see a NYC taxi with its rooftop lights on, try to hail it, and it flies right past you. Yet a second taxi with the exact same lighting situation picks you up. WHY?
You aren’t alone in being confused. According to the NYC TLC (Taxi & Limousine Commission), NYC yellow cabs have 2 lights on the rooftop:
Medallion Number — this is in the center. If it’s ON, then the taxi is available most of the time.
Off-Duty Lights — there are two of these, with one on either side of the Medallion Number.
There are four possible combinations of these two sets of lights, and it’s confusing.
Sounds great, but that leaves passengers and taxi drivers stuck if the taxi driver has the light off and is willing to pick up a passenger who is ‘going my way’.