A cab on Canal St.
A cab on Canal St.
One block of West 42nd Street became a scene of mayhem when a taxicab rear-ended a station wagon, struck a pedestrian and then set off a string of other crashes.
May 5, 2005
Taxis to Go High Tech With Credit Cards and Commercials
By SEWELL CHAN
Riders will have to wait longer until they can use credit cards in all New York City taxicabs, and the price they may have to pay for that convenience is to endure commercials in the back seat.
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission voted unanimously yesterday to push back a Nov. 1 deadline for installing credit- and debit-card readers, passenger-information screens and devices that will transmit the locations of all cabs, while announcing that the new technology could also include ads aimed at riders.
A pilot project containing those innovations will still be started by Nov. 1, but installation in all 12,787 cabs could take months longer than originally expected because of the project's complexity, said the commission's chairman, Matthew W. Daus.
The commission required the devices in March 2004, when it raised fares for the first time in eight years. The new devices would represent one of the most dramatic changes in taxi regulation since the creation of the commission in 1971 and the installation of electronic meters in 1984.
In another change, the commission agreed yesterday to permit paid advertising and messages from commercial sponsors to be displayed on the electronic information screens. Such messages could evoke the recorded announcements - featuring the voices of Jackie Mason, Chris Rock, the Sesame Street character Elmo and other celebrities - that entertained tourists, irritated New Yorkers and infuriated drivers from 1997 to 2003.
The new advertisements are intended to help defray the cost of the credit-card and vehicle-locator technology, which could exceed $1,500 per cab. Passengers will be able to lower or turn off the sound of any commercial advertising under the rule changes passed yesterday.
The panel also voted to expand the text-messaging systems that will be installed in cabs so that drivers can send and receive information to and from the commission about lost property, traffic conditions and emergencies.
Last year, the commission talked to passengers and drivers and met with about 70 companies interested in providing various parts of the technology. In March of this year, the commission formally requested proposals from contractors. Bids were due this month and a three-year agreement with a primary contractor was to begin in August.
But the deadline for bids has now been pushed back to June, and the start of the work is likely to be delayed, officials said.
Mr. Daus, the chairman, who at the time of the March 2004 vote called the schedule for installing the technology "aggressive," said yesterday that the project was still moving forward.
But he said he could not say how many vehicles would be included in the pilot project or when the full installation would begin.
The seven commissioners held a public hearing to discuss changes to the plan, including the advertising, but most of the people at the hearing, which was held at the agency's headquarters on Rector Street in Lower Manhattan, raised concerns instead about the cost of the equipment and the potential misuse of the technology. Mr. Daus tried to address both concerns, but the rancor - which included the rare spectacle of commission employees escorting one driver out of the building - suggested that the proposed technology had not won wide acceptance.
"Taxi drivers are not lab animals," said one driver, Robert C. Kirk, 55, who added that he was particularly concerned about "noise pollution" from incessant exposure to commercial messages. He said it would be an "act of utter disregard for taxi drivers and the taxicab riding public" to force drivers to install credit-card readers when cash machines have proliferated.
Another driver, William Lindauer, 61, asked, "Since when do guinea pigs have to pay to be part of an experiment?"
Although the technological changes were approved almost 14 months ago, some critics said the proposal had not been fully thought out.
Erhan Tuncel, 45, a taxi owner and driver, said the upgrades should include the installation of global positioning system devices for drivers to use in finding their way around the city. "I have seven years of experience and I still have to use my five-borough map," he said. "The map is fine, but it is ridiculous to use when we have the most advanced technology available."
One commissioner, Harry E. Giannoulis, suggested that detailed route and trip information could produce an avalanche of unwanted advice from back-seat drivers. "I don't think we should give it to the passengers at all, or the passenger is going to be sitting there, screaming at the driver," he said, drawing laughs in the packed meeting room.
The most contentious moment in the two-hour meeting occurred when one driver, Kevin M. Fitzpatrick, asked whether the high proportion of Muslim drivers in the industry had anything to do with the installation of the vehicle-locator technology.
Noach Dear, a commissioner and a former city councilman, interrupted him. "I move that we don't need to hear any more from a racist," Mr. Dear said before guards led Mr. Fitzpatrick, 55, from the building.
Mr. Daus said the devices would be used only to collect information on routes and trips to analyze traffic and usage patterns, to resolve customer complaints and to help passengers find lost property. The locations of cabs would not be made available to the police unless specific records were subpoenaed, he said.
Mr. Daus acknowledged that the commission was seeking electronic records in part because some drivers had fraudulently altered the paper trip sheets they are required to maintain. The commission will be able to use the electronic data to adjudicate complaints against drivers in its so-called taxi court, although Mr. Daus said the records could just as easily exonerate drivers as inculpate them.
WELL, about time! Sometimes I didnt have cash so I couldnt take a taxi. I always have my cards though.
SO, they ARE or ARE NOT going to put detailed street maps? The thing about passengers screaming at the drivers threw me off.
June 11, 2005
Designing a New Taxicab (But Keeping It Yellow)
A redesigned taxicab whose roof light more clearly indicates a vacancy.
By SEWELL CHAN
With all due respect to the Ford Crown Victoria, a group of architects, designers and urban planners say the classic New York City taxicab is in dire need of a makeover.
With measured support from city officials, including the chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, a nonprofit group called the Design Trust for Public Space plans to "define the ideal taxi and taxi system of the future."
The group seeks to move well beyond basic innovations of recent decades, like air-conditioning and more legroom. It wants to reimagine the taxicab as a unique element of the urban landscape, and more than a reconfigured passenger sedan.
At a workshop on May 24, designers, architects, city officials and representatives of taxi owners and drivers sketched out an array of ideas.
The taxis themselves could include sunroofs, child car seats, sliding doors, wider entrances for wheelchair users and front-passenger seats that face the rear of the car.
Certain curbs and lanes could be designated for the exclusive use of cabs. Taxi stands could be built outside Manhattan, along with "convenience stations" with amenities for drivers.
Even the traditional mode of hailing a cab - hand in air, legs akimbo - is being rethought. One idea under discussion is a system to allow hailing a taxicab with a cellphone.
The wide-ranging ideas will be presented for the first time on Thursday afternoon at a public workshop at the Parsons School of Design, which is helping to organize the effort.
Among the 58 participants in the "Designing the Taxi" work group, perhaps the only common point of agreement is a sense that the Ford Crown Victoria is boring, if functional. The workmanlike sedan makes up about 93 percent of the New York City taxicab fleet.
The fleet, which totals 12,760 cabs, also includes several models of minivans, of which the Toyota Siena (865 vehicles), the Honda Odyssey (127) and the Isuzu Oasis (85) are the three most common.
The Ford Explorer, a sport utility vehicle, accounts for 16 cabs. (The last Checker cab was retired in 1999.)
"In a perfect world, the taxi would be a purpose-built vehicle, designed to be a taxi, just as a post-office vehicle is designed to deliver mail," said Deborah Marton, the executive director of the Design Trust.
"If you were to design a taxi to its Platonic essence, it would not be the Crown Victoria. It serves its purpose, but it's been pushed to the limit of its efficacy as a taxi vehicle."
Ms. Marton, who is a lawyer and a landscape architect, acknowledged that for economic reasons, any redesign of the taxi might well involve a reconfiguration of existing passenger vehicles on the market.
In the past, taxi-medallion owners have fiercely resisted any proposal to bring the distinctive London-style cab - which is spacious, distinctive and far more expensive than the Crown Victoria - to New York.
"Our goal here is to keep the taxi as democratic as possible," Ms. Marton said. "We don't want it to become the London version of the New York taxi."
Matthew W. Daus, the chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, has given cautious support to the effort, assigning his first deputy commissioner, Andrew Salkin, to be part of the six-member steering committee that is overseeing the project.
"This is a good exercise to get the perspectives of consumers and passengers, and also of architects and designers who are not involved in the day-to-day business of cabs," Mr. Daus said in an interview. While he was not ready to endorse any specific proposal, he said of the taxi, "It's an icon, a recognizable part of the public space."
The genesis of the new effort stretches back to a controversial Museum of Modern Art exhibition, "The Taxi Project: Realistic Solutions for Today," that was open from June 17 to Sept. 6, 1976.
That exhibition was financed by the United States Department of Transportation, after all the major American automakers declined to participate. It drew critical acclaim but had virtually no impact on the industry.
"The average New York taxi is a combination of dilapidation, filth, inefficiency and acute Rube Goldbergian discomforts designed to torture, humiliate and frustrate, for a price," Ada Louise Huxtable, the architecture critic of The New York Times, wrote in her review.
Paul Goldberger, the dean of Parsons, said in an interview that he attended and vividly remembered the 1976 show.
"It was a wonderful and ambitious thing with some really neat vehicles that were created, but it had almost no meaning, because it was designers talking to other designers about design," he said. "There was no buy-in from the taxi industry, from the American manufacturers or from the city regulators who control the taxi industry. Drivers even picketed that exhibition."
Mr. Goldberger, a former architecture critic for The Times, said his school was supporting the new effort in part because of the strong bid to include taxi owners and drivers.
He described the current state of cabs as "really awful," adding, "What we do is take cars, and not even particularly good cars at that, paint them yellow and put a meter in them."
The current effort was financed with a $25,000 grant from the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, which tries to improve the quality of life in New York City, with support from Parsons and from Deborah Berke & Partners, an architectural firm.
Mr. Daus, the top taxicab regulator, said he looked forward to the unveiling of the proposals and would be open to almost every idea.
"The color of the cabs is off limits, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "There's such a history with yellow.
"If you took the yellow off the cab, I don't think it would be a cab anymore."
I prefer the Crown Vics over the vans. JMO
NY Daily News
Jun 30, 3:33 PM EDT
NY tries to make yellow cabs greener; will New Yorkers accept less legroom?
By DAVID B. CARUSO
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- The quality of the air in New York City could come down to 10 inches of legroom.
That is approximately the difference in backseat space between a standard New York taxi and the new hybrid SUVs that environmentalists would like to see added to the city's fleet of 12,760 yellow cabs.
Whether New Yorkers are willing to give up the extra room is about to be tested.
Running on a combination of gasoline and electricity, the hybrids get double the gas mileage of traditional taxis and pollute far less. But for months, the city Taxi and Limousine Commission has been reluctant to allow them to be used as cabs.
The problem, explained commission chairman Matthew W. Daus, is that people like their cabs big, and hybrids do not have the legroom and large trunks of the fleet's current workhorse, an extra-long version of the Ford Crown Victoria.
"It would be unbelievably wonderful to have hybrid vehicles in our taxi fleet. I think it would have a profound effect on the environment," Daus said. "The one challenge that we have is that they are too small."
The City Council passed a bill Thursday that would allow taxi owners for the first time to put hybrids into service, starting in late summer. It would then be up to the taxi commission to decide which brands will be allowed.
Daus said the commission is close to selecting one or two models on a trial basis. From there, the success of the experiment could depend, at least in part, on whether New Yorkers will put up with less legroom.
Exactly how many hybrid cabs will ultimately hit the streets will be up to the cab owners and companies.
Mark A. Izeman, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he is certain hybrids will be embraced by cabbies and customers alike.
"They'll take less legroom if they can breathe easier in the back seat," Izeman said. "If you converted the entire fleet of New York City taxicabs to hybrids, it would be the equivalent of taking 24,000 cars off the road, from a global warming perspective."
A trial of hybrid cabs in New York is likely to be watched closely by cab companies in other big cities, which have been similarly slow to embrace alternative-fuel taxis. Despite their potential to lower fuel costs, only a token number of vehicles running on clean fuels have been put into service as cabs nationwide.
Space has been a big concern, and so have reliability and power, said Alfred Lagasse, executive vice president of the Taxi, Limousine and Paratransit Association, a national trade organization for cab companies.
"We aren't used to that type of vehicle. We want to see what happens," Lagasse said. "Does it hold up to the wear and tear of taxi service? Do the customers accept it as a taxi?"
The industry asked a similar question about cabs running on compressed natural gas in the late 1990s, and got a mixed answer.
In New York, the city's taxi commission persuaded a peak of around 180 cabbies to switch to natural-gas cars, but largely abandoned the campaign in 2000 after drivers complained there were not enough fueling stations.
Drivers in other parts of the country voiced similar concerns, and Ford recently announced it would stop making a compressed natural gas version of the Crown Victoria.
Hybrids may hold more promise.
In San Francisco, a pair of companies added 15 hybrid Ford Escapes to the city's fleet of 1,400 taxis in February. The small SUVs have an in-town fuel efficiency rating of 36 miles to the gallon, compared with 18 for the Crown Victoria - an important advantage at a time of rising gas prices.
Yellow Cab Cooperative of San Francisco owns 10 of the hybrids. The company's general manager, Hal Mellegard, said customers seem to like them, but he is waiting to see how the vehicles hold up on the city's famous hills.
"I expect a car to be running well after just 50,000 miles," he said. "When we get to 90,000 miles, we'll talk."
HYBRID CABS OK TO ROLL
By RICH CALDER Transit Reporter
September 9, 2005
The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission yesterday gave cabdrivers some much-needed relief from sky-high gas prices, by approving the use of hybrid vehicles as taxis.
The commission's decision gives the city's 12,760 taxicab drivers the option to convert from gas-guzzling Ford Crown Victorias to any of six car models that run on both gas and electricity. The new cabs are expected to be on the road in a little more than a month.
"I believe the TLC made history today," said its chairman, Matthew Daus. "The fact that any medallion owner can now choose to replace their retiring taxicabs with cleaner and more economical hybrid-electric vehicles will both yield environmental benefits and save them money at the gas pump."
Daus also said the hybrids are cheaper to buy than the Crown Victorias, and that their purchasers are eligible for potential state and federal tax incentives that total, in some instances, more than $6,000.
The TLC's vote comes as the leading driver groups say the recent spike in gas prices following Hurricane Katrina is sucking an extra $20 or so daily from cabbies' incomes.
The commission discussed proposals from three taxi-driver organizations that are pressing for a new surcharge of $1 to $2 per ride to combat the spike in gas prices.
The Taxi Workers' Alliance, which represents 6,500 "yellow" cabbies, is leading the drive by proposing an immediate surcharge of $1 — and an extra 50 cents for every dollar increase in the cost of a gallon of gas. Daus said the proposals are under consideration.
Before yesterday's decision to approve the hybrids, the TLC for more than two years was regularly accused by the City Council of dragging its feet on the issue.
Mayor Bloomberg in July signed a council bill into law mandating the TLC set the new rules.
Additional reporting by Bill Sanderson
Copyright 2005 NYP Holdings, Inc.
November 4, 2005
First Fleet Of Hybrid Taxi Cabs Hits The Streets
Although they won't officially be unveiled until next week, the city's first fleet of six hybrid taxi cabs hit the streets Friday.
The new cabs are SUVs, hybrid versions of the Ford Escape.
Hybrids run on a combination of gasoline and electricity, getting much better gas mileage and releasing fewer pollutants.
In September, the Taxi and Limousine Commission approved the use of six models of hybrid vehicles to be used as taxis.
Copyright © 2005 NY1 News
Great images there Edward. Really great.
I am doing a series of paintings entitled "Dunces in the Big Smoke" or "Dunces in the City", and your photos of herds of taxis has inspired me to entitle one painting
"Leave Your Pickup at the GW Bridge, Dunce"