Being a an airport transfer driver in the USA – by an Englishman in New York!

Having recently arrived back from a pre-Christmas trip to New York, I was inspired to write about the taxi service provided in this amazing city by the famous yellow cabs. It has to be said that driving in New York is unlike driving anywhere else that I’ve come across in the past. Conversations with several drivers and locals out there showed that although Christmas is a particularly busy and congested time of year on their streets, there isn’t any real let-up the rest of the year either!

At Alpha Executive Cars, we pride ourselves on our airport transfers. Taking our clients from their homes or offices in Suffolk or Cambridgeshire directly to all of the major airports in the area is the mainstay of our business. So after landing at New York’s JFK Airport, I was keen to see how airport taxis operated there.

The rule of thumb tends to be that you either select one of the numerous yellow cabs outside the terminal, or take the approved “NYC Airporter” – a dedicated taxi-bus that gets you from your terminal to any of three drop-off locations in the city. As a round-trip price, the Airporter works out at around half the cost of taking a yellow taxi. Once at your drop-off point, you can then transfer to a smaller shuttle that will take you direct to the door of most hotels in the city. Certainly a very efficient and cost effective way of completing your transfer.

The first thing that strikes you about New York, especially in Midtown (the home of such sites as Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Madison Square Garden and the famous shopping area of 5th Avenue) is the sheer volume of both people and traffic. Both competing for space – pedestrians clamouring to cross the interconnecting streets and avenues, the vehicles jostling for position in the fastest lane to progress their journey.

Amongst all of this – New York’s famous yellow taxis. We’ve all seen them in the movies and on television. As eponymous with New York as the black cab is with London. They’re the only vehicle permitted to be hailed at the side of the street and are all metered to ensure that you’re paying a fair price for your journey.

And of course, they all carry “the badge” – the symbol of their right to operate as a taxi in NYC, firmly soldered on to their hoods (or bonnet for our UK audience!). These badges can be worth up to $250,000, sometimes more, so they’re highly prized. Never let it be said that operating a taxi over there is cheap!

Now comes the debateable point – who has a harder job – our London cabbies, or New York taxi drivers?

The one thing they don’t need is “The Knowledge”. With the whole of their city based on a grid system of streets and avenues, provided they know what street the major landmarks and destinations are on, it’s simply a case of counting up or down the number of streets and avenues. As a London cabbie however, you really need to know where you’re going – and as they charge based on time, they need to get there by the most direct and least congested route.

That said though, the streets of NYC are in an almost constant state of gridlock. The honk of drivers’ horns is a familiar sound as they weave their way around pedestrians and through the other traffic. It took us over an hour and a half to get from JFK Airport to our drop-off point – and it was only 18 miles away. The last 4 miles taking 40 minutes alone!

So which would I rather be – a London cabbie, or a New York one? My answer – neither! Both these groups of people do an incredible job and provide a fantastic level of service to their customers. There’s no doubt that I prefer the steadier pace of airport transfers, executive travel and chauffeuring to and from the relative calm of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire!