How Do Taxi Calls Work?

I never thojght about this before. I was downtown and had to take a cab to O’Hare airport.

So this guy picked me up and I went to where I had to be. My employer then said, “Hold the taxi, I want you to go to O’Hare and pick something up.” So then he took me to O’Hare. This is Chicago if you don’t know.

So how does this work? Does the taxi guy have a specific area he has to stick to?

I flagged hiim downtown, he took me to another downtown spot, then all the way out to the airport.

Now does the taxi guy just stay at the airport, or does he hafe to drive all the way back downtown without a fare?

So how do taxi driving calls work exactly?


If he’s a Chicago cab, he hangs out in the line at the airport.

In Chicago, suburban cabs cannot pick up unarranged rides in Chicago (O’hare’s in the city limits). So if a suburban taxi takes you to the airport, s/he either gets lucky if someone calls the company for a pre-arranged ride while s/he’s headed there, or goes home without a fare.

Chicago taxis don’t pick up fares outside the city limits. So they charge fare-and-a-half after they take you beyond the city, because until they get back to their closest likely cab hangout, they’re fareless.

For cabs that are moving around the city, the dispatcher will announce that there is a call-in fare available, and the pick-up location.

The drivers will then estimate when they can arrive, and “bid” for the fair with a time. The dispatcher starts at say “5 minutes” and if there are no takers, “10 minutes” and so on until a driver accepts the fare. A driver held up in a traffic jam on the way to a such a fare, would need to turn the fare back to the dispatcher for re-bidding.

The driver will then need to call the dispatcher when he actually picks up the fare, and it better usually be close to the time bid. There are various ways the dispatchers can punish drivers that make a habit of underbidding.

This is a big problem in places without lots of taxis. It can be difficult or impossible to get a cab on short notice.

This is the way it all worked pre-computer and GPS. These technologies may help, but this falls into a class of problem that is very difficult to optimize. It wouldn’t surprise me if current methods were not much changed, perhaps with the dispatcher able to verify the location of cabs on a computer map without having to ask the drivers over the radio.

I’ve actually been kicked out of a cab by a cop because the cab picked me up out of his “jurisdiction.” The driver could have lost his medalion for that. Apparently they take that veery seriously.