Friday, February 6, 2009

Livability Indicator #12 - Hailing a Cab

"Hey girl...wanna share a cab??"

(I'd play guess the city with this one, but I'll ruin the suspense cuz I can. This is Austin as the Frost Tower, blurred and backgrounded suggests, and she probably scored a pedi-cab rather than a taxi cab to be location and culturally specific.)

To be perfectly honest, I didn't think of this one myself, but it was brought up in jest during a meeting today by the inimitable Alex Krieger (ahem, name drop) when we started joking about the ease and/or difficulty of finding cabs in various cities, which he so succinctly put, "a measure of great cities, the ease of finding a cab."

So when starting to think about this a little further, one feels compelled to ask, "where are cabs and why are they there?" In a time where LA and all of its absurdities, in a sort of Rube Goldberg machine of agglomerated decision making, is trying to limit (or not) the locations of cab stands (which admittedly can aid in predictability), contrast this with New York where they are everywhere.

In Dallas, we find them at the airport (where it will run you in the neighborhood of $50-60 w/ tip to go to/from downtown to the airport one-way or vice versa, at the downtown hotels at certain hours, and outside of some of the larger office buildings during the weekday. That is about it, unless you feel like calling yellow cab or cowboy cab and waiting 45 minutes to get picked up (if at all).

Me? I prefer Karaoke Cab, and yes, it is exactly as it sounds with disco ball and everything. I'd publish the number for advertising purposes, but I care not for having my rides delayed b/c of you might be wont to do. You people have cars. Leave the fun, chauffered commutes to the experts. That being me. You haven't lived until you have seen Baby Diego belting out "Like a Virgin" out the windows at 2 in the morning to stunned club-goers.

I take cabs quite a bit these days. Often anywhere between two and five times a month I would guess. Usually I just wander over to the Magnolia or Adolphus Hotels if I'm still downtown and have little trouble, although some more difficult cabbies might be looking for bigger fares than my 1.5 mile trip to the Loon. That all means less drunk driving. Care to compare where more DD occurs, NYC or Dallas?

It also means less need for car ownership. In a place where it is financially viable (if not advantageous) to use other means of transportation than private automobile for mobility, this means less land tied up by all the facilities constructed to support the car: garages, highway, arterials, etc. This is all land (particularly) when dealing with a downtown and its increased land costs, better suited for usable development. Car infrastructure has built-in structural inefficiencies.

Also, it makes city living more affordable on both ends. The developer can cut cost by building less parking (sometimes as much as 20% of construction budget) and it allows a greater variety of demographics to afford urban living. As Mr. Krieger also put it today, "Vibrant streets aren't populated by the patrons of the W hotel [paraphrased from memory]."