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TLC Moving Ahead With Plan To Scrap Taxi TV

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Taxi and Limousine Commission plans to move ahead with its proposal to scrap the TV screens that can now be found in the back seats of city cabs.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, for nine long years, many New Yorkers felt like talking back to the talking TVs that started blaring as soon as they got in. What they often wanted to say was, "Shut up already."

"They repeat and repeat. I'm really not interested," said Susan Berne of Midtown. "Usually when I take a cab, I turn it off."

"Don't love 'em. I put it on mute," said Keith Hark of Midtown. He said the Taxi TV devices are "noisy and distracting."

And now the TLC has heard the complaints and plans to take action.

The Taxi TV screens are set up to provide information and entertainment, but they were widely unpopular with both passengers and drivers – to the point where everyone wanted them gone, the TLC told CBS2 Monday night.

They were installed in all yellow cabs by late 2008, as part of the integrated TPEP system. The system also allows passengers to pay by credit or debit card, provides drivers with a small screen to receive warnings and notices, and automatically captures trip data that previously had to be entered manually, the TLC said.

The TPEP system as a whole has proven its value in many ways – from helping recover lost property to warning drivers of weather emergencies, the TLC said.

But the Taxi TV component drew complaints from drivers who heard the audio content even when their cabs were empty, the TLC said.

"Generally, it's about: 'I want a little quiet. Why do I have to listen to the noise?'" said Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi. "Sometimes there's equipment complaints too – 'I can't turn it off; I can't mute it,' but primarily, people want to know, why do they have to watch something? They sort of feel that they're a captive audience in the back seat."

The TLC plans to launch a pilot program to find a high-tech smartphone or tablet payment system to replace the TVs. The new system will not talk, but it will allow riders to pay by credit card, or pre–pay from a phone app like Uber and other car companies.

"It will be app-friendly, which means it's easier for people that are signing up with apps to integrate with the technology -- and not even pull out a credit card when they're in the taxicab, and it will still work with traditional credit cards through the credit card swipe," Joshi said.

Taxi drivers were thrilled with the anticipated end of Taxi TV.

"It's annoying for me and I think for customers too," said driver M.D. Hassan of Queens.

The new smart screens will be GPS-activated. Riders will see a virtual meter on the tablet that will show the cost of the ride and any surcharges, and will provide a running total.

Officials hope to see it installed in all taxis by 2017.

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