For the city’s cabbies, the quest for a bathroom is no potty joke.
Finding bladder relief is a daily dilemma for the city’s 44,000 cabbies, who typically work 12 hour shifts and cruise miles away from their garages. And the hunt for a toilet is getting harder as new bike lanes and MUNI meters make it harder to jump out without getting ticketed.
“We’re getting squeezed further and further,” said John McDonagh, a driver for 30 years.
The city provides 55 “relief stands” where cabs can park on the street for an hour, though they must then find a place willing to let them use their facilities.
A recent spot check found the yellow signs missing from at least five of these relief zones, construction barring access from two more and two others gone because of the Times Square pedestrian revamp. Many of the existing stands were full, as the areas typically only have a handful of spots and livery cars can also use them.
“Taxi drivers are human beings. They deserve the right to park at a taxi stand and go to the bathroom,” said David Pollack, editor of Taxi Insider, a trade publication.
A Taxi and Limousine Commission spokesman said construction has displaced some relief stands, but added that the city is now revising the sites.
“The goal (is) ensuring that drivers have the best opportunities to do what they need to do,” the TLC said.
Cabbies take the issue seriously, as refraining from relieving oneself can lead to health problems. Malcolm Rattner, a taxi garage owner in Brooklyn, said he opened his bathroom to all drivers after he got workers compensation claims for kidney problems.
“They would line up out the door,” Rattner said.
Cabbies can get out of their cars at taxi stands, where cars line up to pick up passengers. But unlike a relief stand, drivers get $115 tickets if they are caught with an empty car. Police have also started issuing summons to cabbies found using toilets at city playgrounds because they are not “accompanied by a child,” according to a recent ticket which came with a $100 fine.
The NYPD did not return a request for comment about the ticket. A city Parks Department spokeswoman said the bathrooms are open to anyone and didn’t know why cabbies would be getting tickets at playgrounds.
To help drivers, the TLC is looking to have taxi GPS devices detect public bathrooms, but the upgrade is at least two years away.
In the meantime, hacks say they often resort to going in the street or peeing in bottles stowed under their seats.
“Veteran drivers all keep a bottle with them,” said Jawaid Toppa, a cabbie for 22 years.
Health effects of not regularly relieving oneself:
– A 2003 case study of a 54-year-old New York limo driver found that a chronic lack of bathroom access contributed to an enlarged, “poorly functioning” bladder and kidney stones
– Not drinking enough to avoid going to the bathroom contributes to high instances of urinary tract infections
– “Infrequent voider syndrome,” as a lack of urination is called, could cause decreased kidney functions or a need to use a catheter in very extreme cases
Source: Dr. David Goldfarb, New York Harbor VA Medical Center