Chronicles of a Taxi Driver, Why are Taxi Cabs Yellow?

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In this part of the series “Chronicles of a Taxi Driver” the “why” question always comes up, “Why are Taxi Cabs Painted Yellow?” The iconic signature of a Taxi Cab around the world is yellow, and for at least two good reasons, #1 It is a distinguishable color for a taxi cab, a bright Yellow and … #2 Yellow stands out amongst all other colors, compared to black or brown cars.

Motorized taxicabs began to appear on the streets of major cities from the early 1900s. According to Time.com, the word Taxi traces to the early 20th century, when it appeared as a shortened version of “taximeter,” and “Cabby” being short form for a cab driver. A taximeter is a device that measures the cab’s mileage.

 author with a coronavirus maskTaxis in major US cities are yellow because of bylaws and regulations changes in the late 1960s, but the process that got the first yellow cab onto the streets had begun much earlier.

Some say it could date back to the 15th century in Italy in the horse and coach days, (livery) but I would think that’s a rumor. The US seems to have a stronger claim to where the first yellow taxis originated.

In the early days in Europe they could have been any color, horse and buggy painted yellow, Nah!

If the new taxi cab was a Model T Ford per-say then most likely they would be black because:

Henry Ford’s famous saying was, “What color would you like black or …BLACK.”

Chronicles of a taxi Driver, Why are Taxi Cabs Painted Yellow?

In 1907, businessman Harry Allen imported his red and green vehicles with their taximeters from France to New York. He had the first metered cabs in the city. Graham Hodges, a taxi historian at Colgate University, describes how, at the time, cab-company owners would paint their fleets a “signature color.” There were brown and white cabs, some black ones, red cabs and checkered ones as well as yellow ones.

In his “Graham Hodges book Taxi!” A Social History of the New York City Cab driver, he quotes The Great Gatsby, where one character lets four cabs pass her before “she selected a new one, lavender-colored with gray upholstery.”

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Within a few early years, two of the more prominent companies had both gone for yellow: Yellow Taxicab Company operating in New York, and John Hertz’s Yellow Cab Company that started in Chicago.

There are lots of stories and rumors of how taxi cabs became yellow, Albert Rockwell’s wife suggested painting the fleet yellow because “it was her favorite color.” By 1910 all of Albert’s fleet of vehicles were painted yellow and was known as the “Yellow Taxi.”

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They say his company even went as far as to take legal action to protect their identifiable color of “Yellow.”  But threw all intents, he could not stop all other taxi companies from painting their vehicles yellow.

But the most believable story is this guy named Hertz, the (originator of “Hertz rent-a-car”) apparently; he made the color yellow as a household taxi icon. He reportedly got the idea for the color from a local university study that found YELLOW was the most visible color over greater distances.

That makes sense,eh!

Chronicles of a taxi Driver, Why are Taxi Cabs Painted Yellow?

Though yellow cabs were standardized by then, it wasn’t the only color around for taxi cabs. As late as 1968, the New York Times wrote of “the typical colors of the city’s taxicabs are yellow, orange, red or gold.”


In other parts of the country they could be any color. Years ago in our home town, whatever color that decommissioned police cruiser came in, that was the flavor of the day.

Some say the official color for New York City Taxi Cabs is not just any yellow, but “Dupont M6284 Yellow”  Recently, light green cabs were added, but they are only allowed to pick up fares in the outer boroughs and northern Manhattan.

So there you have it in the beautiful world of New York City where the yellow cabs are famously noted around the world.

But in other parts of the globe, most cities have their own rules and color schemes and some cities … just have none. Today the cabby industry is licensed and highly regulated. But most cities do not have a signature color code.

Put a roof light saying Taxi on it and magnetic signs on the door, and your good to go. Uber might have a decal in the glass, someplace, but they aren’t classed as a ”Taxi Service” anyway. So, now I’m stretching the truth a tad, It’s not mandatory to have a roof light. Eh!

There you have it, the Americans that started the Yellow Cab Movement.

Taxi colors around the World.

(Wikipedia.org)

  • Toronto Cabs could have colors like red and yellow. Orange and green, a bright yellow and a down six version of yellow.
  • Some water taxis are even painted yellow.
  • Madagascar is yellow.
  • Australia “Taxicabs are yellow”; some are orange and white or just white.”
  • Argentina “Colors Of The Taxis Are Black, With Yellow Roofs.”
  • Albania, “The official taxis in Albania, have yellow plates with red text.”
  • “Bangladesh Taxis are painted in yellow.”
  • Even Cuba’s taxis are yellow with a green accent.
  • So around the world, Yellow Cabs seems to be the flavor of the taxi cabs industry and, yes, “it’s because you can see them coming “
  • Even in London, England, where Taxis are traditional black on black, you can even find YELLOW cabs there.
  • New York City chose a particular shade of yellow for its taxis based on a scientific study by a local university that the color yellow was the most identifiable from a distance.

So you ask, “Why are Taxi Cabs Yellow?”… So you can see them coming. Eh!

Read more stories of “Chronicles of a taxi Driver” Why are Taxi Cabs Yellow?

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