Are NYC passengers more generous tipping their cabbies in Thanksgiving Day?


How much should we pay a cabbie? Actually, this is not a random question. Many travelers have this question when they visit a new place, and even the residents also wonder after the fare was increased. One guy asked the NYC residents about how their thought of tip on Quora.

In general cases, passengers would like to pay 15% – 20% for their tip. But what about during a festival,  will it be changing passengers’ mind about the tip amount? Here we examine the tip situation in 2015 Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving Day is an important festival in America, not only for families to get together to celebrate, but to show charity to the poor and give thanks to the community. As a cab driver who is still busy taking passengers on the way to the destination on that day, how this festival affects their income? Will passengers become more generous and would like to pay more tips than normal days? Where could they pick up more passengers during that day? When is the busiest hour during that day? In this article, we use yellow cab trip record data from NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission as a clue to detect some interesting information to answer the questions above.

New York City is the most populous city in the United States. It consists of five boroughs, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island, each of which is a separate county of New York State. With a census-estimated 2015 population of 8,550,405 distributed over a land area of just 305 square miles (790 km2), New York is the most densely populated major city in the United States. Efficient transportations play a significant role in this city. Taxi as an important transport mode in the New York City carries 11% percent of all travel annually.  All New York City taxis are regulated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. It licenses and regulates over 50,000 vehicles and approximately 100,000 drivers.


According to the records data of  NYC Yellow cab, there are four payment types, credit card, cash, no charge and even dispute. For the total yellow cab trip records in 2015, 53.6% is paid using the credit card, while 45.8% is paid in cash. Other two payment types are consist of 0.6%. No adequate records showed how the tip of cash payment, so just the credit card payment is taken into consideration. Though every taxi has the credit card payment system, which provides the default tip percent 15%, 20%, 25% for passengers, there are still around 5% passengers who use credit card pay 0 tips for their trip.

In the graph showed below, we can see the distribution of tip range. In Thanksgiving Day, the most generous guy pay 165.1 for 17.4 miles. The average tip amount of 2015 Thanksgiving Day is 22%. And the average tip amount falls into 0 to 20 dollars. It is a nice thing for cabbies to hear that an increasing amount of tip could be earned on that day. They worth to be paid more for hard working even during the festival day.


From the overview image, midtown Manhattan, and downtown Manhattan seems the densest pickup location. If we divide a day into four parts, after midnight(0 am – 5 am), moring(6am – 11am), afternoon(12pm – 17 pm), evening(18pm – 23pm), a variation will present here. Different from a work day, cabbie could find fewer passengers in the morning time, and the number of pick up records increases after 5 am, get it peak on 15 pm. What an interesting phenomenon here is that a decreasing happened during 15 pm to 18 pm in the late afternoon. Some records show that 4 to 5 p.m. is the traditional hour for cabs to change shifts, the number of the active taxi on the streets falls by nearly 20 percent compared with an hour before. Another low point is at 23 pm, cabs take high pickup amount an hour earlier and an hour later.

Also, we divide the tip percent to five ranks, to explore the number of different tip percent and the distribution of different tip percent. First, we examine the tip percent higher than 100%. Though the total pickup number in after midnight period is lower than other three periods, the number of tip percent higher than 100% shows no significant difference for these four time periods. Passengers who give extra high tips keep their activities constantly during the Thanksgiving Day. And for these high tip records, just seven are found near the Airport location. Others are found in the Manhattan midtown and downtown area.

In 2015 Thanksgiving Day, the average high tip percent is during 4 am, and 5 are in the early morning, though the number of travel records is the lowest during that day. Passengers may be generous to give more tips in the cold, dark morning.

Average Trip Distance Map

From another aspect, if we consider the trip distance by census tract in NYC 2015 Thanksgiving Day, it shows that the average travel distance of Manhattan area is around 2.83. Most passengers just take a short trip by taxi when they are in Manhattan. Besides the John F. Kennedy International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport, a large area in Queen also present a long travel distance.


Here we take a close look at the pickup density in the neighborhood scope. For Newark Liberty International Airport, we suppose that the taxi pickup records could reflect how busy flights were arriving on Thanksgiving Day. As it shows on the map, the busiest pickup time is during morning and afternoon, then is the after midnight period. It is a surprise that in the evening, the pickup records are the fewest. And taking a look at the tip amount, passengers who arrive in the early time flight would like to give tips more than 15% percent than those who arrive in afternoon and evening. Since they may more understand cabbies’ hard work in the early morning.

Another phenomenon is that in the Thanksgiving Day, the area around Time Square is more crowd in afternoon and evening. We can detect a small hollow in the pickup density map in after midnight and morning while a solid points map in afternoon and evening.


A cabbie may get a little more paid on a festival day. However their earnings are still not that much for the market has broken in by Uber. Some cabbies said they see the tips equals to survival, and it is kind of robbing them for tip under 15%. If the service is not bad, it may be an excellent choice to round the tip up to the next dollar considering what little we can do to help them have a beautiful Thanksgiving Day.


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