"A Day In the Life" Taxi Route Visualizer Will Make You Appreciate Your Driver


Most of us just jump into a taxi in order to move more quickly from point A to point B. But that's just a tiny snapshot of what a cab driver's day is like: trip after trip, fare after fare, and (despite the seemingly steep price tag to riders) often for surprisingly little pay. Thanks to Chris Whong, a New York City-based "urbanist, mapmaker, and data junkie," it's now incredibly easy to envision what real days are like for real cab drivers thanks to his "A Day In The Life" cab trip visualizer.

The animated map runs on data from real New York City taxi trips taken in 2013, also kindly made available largely by Mr. Whong. The purpose of "A Day In The Life" is to "analyze running counts of fares, taxes, etc, over the course of a day, and to see how/when taxis move around New York," and it fulfills that purpose mesmerizingly well. 30 trips are made available in the visualizer, and they were randomly selected from the Taxi and Limousine Commission's original set of about 170 million trips. To round out your experience before or after viewing the visualizer, also read this New York City cab driver's Reddit "Ask Me Anything" thread, and imagine that all those things (and more) were happening during the different trips.

Here's a screen capture of a trip in the visualizer, as the cab is heading from Tribeca to Greenwich Village, in Manhattan:

If the Uber and Lyft revolution continues, and it really does help drivers to escape heavy regulations while making way more money, it will be interesting to see whether or not the routes in general change. The first users of these services may have been spending more than ordinary taxi travelers, for the convenience. But as these services thrive and expand, they are trying to grab more and more of the regular-price cab market.

Indeed, if Uber and Lyft are successful, they may ultimately drive the price of travel by taxi to lower-than-the-cab-cartel prices, in general. If and when that happens, we'd expect a taxi trip visualizer to begin showing more trips to the outer New York boroughs, where lower-income residents have less money to spend on transportation but longer trips to take. In my humble opinion, safe drivers should be able to do whatever they damn please with their own cars (including drive people around for money), so bring on the innovation. Thanks to "A Day in the Life," we'll be watching!