If you’re heading to NYC for Fashion Week, you better get acquainted with the sunny-shade vehicles that zoom through Manhattan’s grey concrete. TIME gives us a backgrounder on the Big Apple’s famous yellow cabs which, interestingly, weren’t always yellow.
An early electric hansom taxicab on a New York City street, circa 1900. The Electric Carriage and Wagon Company, the first taxicab company in New York City, began operating 12 electric hansom cabs in July 1897—a time when city traffic was overwhelmingly of the horse-drawn variety.
By the 1920s, as demand for autos boomed, industrialists had recognized the potential of the taxi market. Automobile manufacturers like General Motors and the Ford Motor Company began operating fleets of cabs. Here, a New York City yellow cab in 1929.
Nicknamed the “Sunshine” cab, taxis with a European-style sun roof were put into service in New York, June 19, 1936. The new fleet was the largest single order for new taxicabs in history.
The Checker Cab, used between 1956 and 1982, became one of the most recognizable symbols of mid-20th century urban life. Manufactured by the Checkered Cab Company, the iconic black-and-yellow taxi was advertised as a roomy and rugged alternative to the standard American passenger sedan.
The new model taxicab from Chevrolet is shown in New York City, May 17, 1950.
Taxis drive through the streets of Manhattan near 5th Avenue in New York City, 1972. The vehicles’ signature yellow livery didn’t become law until 1967, when the city ordered that all licensed “medallion taxis” be painted the same color, in order to cut down on unofficial drivers and make the cabs more recognizable.
A gas-electric hybrid taxi drives on a street on March 1, 2011 in New York City. In May 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a five-year plan to switch New York City’s taxicabs to more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. However, the plan was dropped after operators complained that the cost of maintaining the new cars outweighed the fuel savings. Today, New York City has around 4,300 hybrid taxis, representing almost 33 percent of the 13,237 taxis in service—the most in any city in North America.
A Nissan NV200 is unveiled in New York City on April 2, 2012. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the vehicle would serve as the city’s exclusive taxicab for the next decade. The iconic New York City taxi has gotten a 21st-Century makeover, with low-annoyance horns, USB chargers for passengers and germ-fighting seats to cut down on bad odors. Taxi operators will be required to buy the Nissan NV 200 at a cost of about $29,000 starting in late 2013.
Talk about evolutionary. With millions of tourists flocking New York City every day, a ride on one of their iconic yellow cabs is a must-do. And with fast-paced Fashion Week starting tomorrow, taxis are surely gonna get around. (Be sure to chat up the drivers—they have the most interesting stories!)
Here are some Lomographs by our community members who flagged some yellow babies—er, cabbies—down.
Sourced from TIME.
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