How Taximeters Calculate Fares
If the taximeter is by distance only, why does it add money at stoplights?
Fares are NOT by distance only; three separate charges combined become the total fare: "initial charge + mileage charge + time charge". The "initial charge" also called the "Flag Drop"*, is the starting $1.00 fare displayed on the meter.
Our mileage charge is $3.25 per mile, split into 25-cent increments, so at every additional 1/13th mile or part thereof, the meter adds 25-cents to the fare.
Our waiting time charge is $36 per hour, split into 25-cent increments, so at every additional 25 seconds, the meter adds 25-cents to the fare.
While the taxi is traveling above the "crossover speed" the added 25-cents is a mileage charge only. When the cab is below the "crossover speed" the added 25-cents is a time charge only.
"Crossover speed" is set by the taximeter and is based on hourly and mileage rates. Our waiting time is $36 per hour $3.25 per mile, so the "crossover speed" is 11.08 mph because at that speed (36/3.25) are equal---if the cab travels 11.08 mph for an hour the fare will be $36.00, equal to an hour of waiting time.
The reason for the "crossover speed" calculation is to encourage drivers to pick up fares during high traffic periods and not quit driving taxi because of traffic jams.
Is there a secret button to make the meter add up faster?
No, the meters are sealed and impossible to manipulate by the driver. Taximeters undergo tests for accuracy once a year by the Riverside County weights and measures, and then sealed. If unsealed for repairs, the County retests and reseals if accurate. Taximeters calculate distance using the vehicle's odometer, and time by an internal clock, period.