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Fleet Forward Blog

The History of the Taxicab

The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, making a century of helping travelers, the general public, tourists, and people with disabilities get from place to place safely.

And while we’re helping companies in the transportation industry move their Fleets Forward, let’s take a look back at the history of the taxicab.

Taxis date back to 1605, when horse-drawn, for-hire carriages operated in Paris and London.

Two centuries later, Joseph Hansom designed and patented the faster and lightweight Hansom cab. These cabs only required two wheels, meaning they could be pulled by a single horse and navigate traffic jams throughout London. Rides became quicker and cheaper, and their popularity rose as a result. Hansom cabs then spread throughout Europe, popping up in Paris, Berlin and St. Petersburg.

The taxicab then progressed at a much faster rate. Electric battery-powered cabs first became available in the late 1800s, and Gottlieb Daimler invented the world’s first gasoline-powered taximeter-cab in 1897.

By 1907, these gasoline-powered and taximeter-equipped cabs operated in New York City. Harry N. Allen started his company, the New York Taxicab Company, that year, introducing gasoline-powered cabs with taximeters that would charge customers based on mileage.

Around this time, TLPA co-founder John Hertz invented the yellow taxicab. As an entrepreneur in Chicago in the early 1900s, he asked a local university to scientifically identify which color was the easiest to spot.

The winner? You guessed it: Yellow. From there, the iconic yellow cab, instantly recognizable and boundlessly duplicated, was born.

TLPA comes next. In 1917, a small group of taxi operators, including John Hertz of Hertz Rent a Car, met in Washington, D.C. to form the National Association of Taxicab Owners (NATO) in an effort to block a proposed tax on taxi companies. They were successful, and the organization that would become TLPA was born.

By the roaring 1920s, industrialists wanted in. General Motors and the Ford Motor Company started operating fleets, but no one was more successful than the Checkered Cab Manufacturing Company. More innovation followed. Two-way radios appeared in cabs in the late 1940s, and computer-assisted dispatching followed in the 1980s.

Even since then, we’ve seen great gains in the taxi industry, with companies moving to be more accessible, more “green,” and incorporating an ever-expanding suite of technology into their cabs. Here’s to the next 100 years of moving our Fleets Forward.

Posted 5/9/2017 4:04:14 PM

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