A Cab-tive Audience

Does the combination of mustard-colored animated infographics and music that belongs in a bad spa make you feel welcome when you slide into a taxi? It better.

The animated presentation of information about charges, credit card policies and complaint hotline numbers—and, of course, a hearty “WELCOME”—that has been tacked onto the beginning of in-taxi TV programming is a new kind of pest in the world of transportation annoyances. Unlike the rest of the television rotation, which replaced the good old Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights and the actually-sort-of-cute recordings of celebrities telling you to buckle up, this little preamble can’t be turned off.

The change might not seem to matter much. After all, a Wall Street Journal poll back in April found that almost half of New Yorkers think taxi TV is straight-up “annoying” but nearly three-quarters of us just ignore it rather than turning it off. Taxi drivers have had to get used to it in the three years the technology has been in place; when asked, veteran cabbie Sissoko Modibo said he doesn’t even hear it anymore, unless the rider turns up the volume. But given the high level of ambivalence about taxi TV, the loss of the “off” button, even for the precious few seconds until someone comes on to shill for NBC, is a subtle but significant insult to one of the last bastions of quiet privacy in New York City. (The question of taxi shares—a situation in which, Gawker rightly points out, the taxi TV is even more of a nuisance—is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.)

Given this trend toward forcing taxi riders to watch TV, the need for change is clear. Designers Masamichi Udagawa and Sigi Moeslinger told the Times what they thought those little screens should show, but who really wants to watch the meter tick up when the real thing is right there on the dash? What kind of programming would make you happy to watch the taxi TV?

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