It’s been an eventful month at the TLC. First and foremost, I am pleased to report that we have chosen a partner to build New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow. That partner is Nissan Americas, and with their truly excellent NV200 vehicle, we will together usher in a new chapter of taxi history. There are lots of reasons why Nissan Americas will be the partner we want and need to make this project a huge success, but if I had to pick the one that stood out most in my mind, it would be the fact that they aren’t simply some supplier that wants to just sell a product and be done with it. No, not even close. There is a total commitment to building a vehicle from the ground up that will meet standards that taxi drivers and owners have only dreamed of.
Its exterior is sleek and modern, and really doesn’t leave one with an impression of “bigness”, yet it satisfied our seemingly-impossible request that it be bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. In fact, those who are mature enough to recall the Checker cab will actually find it’s roomier than that venerable old “king of cabs”. The thing is, the Crown Victoria has done a yeoman’s job of giving our city good and respectable service over the 14 or so years it has dominated the landscape, but it hasn’t inspired the same kind of loyalty that other vehicles have. How so? Not a week goes by where I don’t hear at least two or three people say, “Why don’t you just bring back the Checker?” Yes, the Checker……the same Checker that was discontinued when the company’s doors closed in June 1982, and whose last example was retired from service in July 1999. The goal – and I feel we have achieved this – was to find the right manufacturer to make a vehicle that will engender the same loyalty 20 years from now.
Anyway, the size and design are only two of the more obvious facets of this vehicle. There are literally dozens of amenities that will make drivers and passengers alike fall in love with this vehicle, and the list of benefits isn’t even finalized as yet. The Taxi of Tomorrow announcement, led by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, with the endorsement and participation of Ron Sherman, Allen Kaplan, David Pollack, Vincent Sapone, Richard Kay, Ethan Gerber and other taxi industry leaders, is actually only the beginning of the project’s next phase. Right this very minute as I write these words, Nissan designers and engineers are meeting with taxi industry business leaders, picking their brains and learning everything they need to know to make sure this new taxicab is the success we know it will be. Next, we will see a series of focus groups organized to get even more guidance from riders and stakeholders about what they want to see in this next generation of taxicabs. Even more exciting, in about six months, we begin pilot testing six Nissan Leaf electric vehicles to see how all-electric taxicabs can fit into the very unique business model of the taxi industry. Does that mean we could someday have an all-electric taxi fleet one day if the systems prove practical? Yes. That’s right, no more roller-coaster-priced gas fill-ups.
Before I close, there’s been a lot said and written about the process involved in bringing yellow taxi-quality hail service to the boroughs outside of Manhattan. At various points in this formative process, both the livery and medallion taxicab industries have expressed their concerns with how this will happen. I hope that our discussions will be completed, and a plan decided upon by the time you read these words, but as of this writing, we’re still at the table with legislators and stakeholders working through the details. I feel confident in saying that whatever those final details will be, the process by which they were reached will have been an inclusive one, dedicated to the common benefit of all the stakeholders