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Cab Drivers Surveyed for First Time

January 23, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ The first major survey of applicants for hack licenses indicates the typical New York cabbie is an immigrant, and one in five has lived in the city three years or less.

The study was conducted in connection with the New York Taxi Drivers Institute, a program established two years ago in response to complaints that cab drivers often did not speak English, did not know their way around the city and were discourteous to their passengers.

The institute teaches drivers courtesy and New York geography. According to the survey, the applicants said they were wary of the program at first, but afterward said it had helped.

A quarter of the 4,369 applicants were Americans, the rest from 82 other countries. Though 47 percent said they had completed two or more years of college, only 49 percent said they spoke English at home.

Ellen Weiman, a spokeswoman for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which sponsors the program, said the results are not surprising. Traditionally, she said, cab drivers have come from the ranks of immigrants because it costs little to get a license and few skills are required.

The only thing that has changed, she said, is the nationalities that make up the current wave of immigrants.

She said the stereotype of the wise-cracking New York native behind the wheel may have come about in the years after World War II, when returning GIs drove cabs while going to school.

Miss Weiman said more than 90 percent of the applicants for hack licenses actually go on to drive cabs.

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