Taxicab Confessions: New Ranking System Lets You Pick a Good Driver

August 1, 2008 at 12:30 pm 1 comment

Ever wish you could tell right away if your taxi driver was a good one? In London, the cab drivers must pass strict tests, but in most cities it’s all a crap shoot. How many times have you found yourself trapped in a taxi with a chain-smoker, a dawdler who takes the longest route, someone who treats you rudely or a speed demon who swerves in and out of lanes while you fear for your life?

In Japan, there is now a handy-dandy vetting system. (Thanks, Stippy!) Cabs with three stars on top of the roof let you know at a glance that the driver has passed a test from the Tokyo Taxi Center and has been designated a “Master Driver.” This means a perfect record of customer satisfaction, as well as no traffic violations. Here’s the punchline: only about 10% of taxi drivers qualify right now.

It’s still good news for passengers who disembark at Shimbashi station, near the Yurikamome line, because they can head directly to a stand that provides Master Drivers only.

Regardless of who your driver is in Japan, it’s becoming less likely that you’ll get stuck with a cab that smells like an ashtray; Koichi Yasui, a self-employed taxi driver since 1975, has been fighting to make all taxis smoke-free. He was sick of the effects of second-hand smoke each time his passengers lit up. (Some even insisted on keeping the windows closed.) He filed a lawsuit in 2005, and now 60% of cabs are smoke-free.

Smoking is still fairly popular in Japan. According to the Christian Science Monitor, 40% of men smoke and 13-15% of women do. A total ban on smoking in taxis may be a ways off, but at least there are more options for those who want them.

Sarah S.

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