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NYC gets a cool new taxi, but misses some big opportunities

Nissan.Taxi.Skyline

The new Nissan NV200 (photo courtesy of Nissan)

Last night I went to a press conference introducing New York City’s latest taxi, the Nissan NV200. NYC taxis are always an adventure. You never know if you’re going to get a taxi with a flooded floor, one that smells like feet, a driver who has no clue where he’s going and gets both of you hopelessly lost, or who talks for half an hour about why he wears a tinfoil hat at home (all things that have happened to me since moving to NYC). This new taxi could have a positive impact on three of those situations.

The taxi itself is beautiful, and big. While it won’t seat more people than current cabs, those passengers will be a lot more comfortable. The rear compartment has these features:

  • 2 USB ports and 1 12-volt outlet for charging devices and laptops
  • Reading lights
  • Large, flat bench seat with no hump running down the middle of the floor
  • Rear AC with controls – no more arguing with the driver about temperature
  • Driver/passenger intercom system – if you do have to argue with the driver, it will be easier
  • Rear side-curtain airbags
  • Huge transparent section in roof, for gazing at skyscrapers without hanging head out of window
  • Sliding windows in case you still want to hang your head out
  • Anti-bacterial seats and floor mats
  • Swing-out step and handles for getting in and out easier
  • Sliding doors (as a frequent bike rider, that makes me especially happy)

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Large, hump-less bench seat

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Temperature controls and vents, intercom system, and charging station

(photo courtesy of Nissan)

In addition to the airbags, these will be the first NYC cabs crash tested with the partition in place. (Of course, those crash tests will surely include the dummies wearing seatbelts, and according to one Nissan exec, 60% of back seat passengers in cabs today do not buckle up.) Safer is definitely better.

The best innovation of all is in the front, with the driver: a navigation system. I just hope they all learn how to use it.

But as much as I love these innovations, there are a couple of key features still missing.

No Wheelchair Accessibility

When Carlos Ghosn, President and CEO of Nissan, spoke about the design process for the new vehicles, he said that they “considered the needs of everyone who would ever get into a taxi.” And he specifically mentioned babies and the elderly. But two groups that will not be served by these new taxis are children, and people who use wheelchairs.

I spoke with Joe Castelli, Vice President in charge of Commercial Vehicles for Nissan North America, about this issue, and he told me that there is a wheelchair accessibility option available for the NV200, but that how many vehicles have this option will be left to the city and the medallion owners.

And word on the street (literally, from the protestors from the Taxis for All Campaign outside the press conference) is that even those Nissans that choose the option (or are forced to choose the option) will not be able to accommodate larger electric wheelchairs.

According to the group protesting, only 2% of taxis in NYC right now are wheelchair accessible. The odds of a person in a wheelchair hailing a cab that they can actually get into is roughly the same as me walking out of my door right now and finding George Clooney sweeping my sidewalk. But cab owners are not going to make this change voluntarily, because it’s expensive. The city will have to make them do it, and right now it doesn’t look like the city has any plans to do that.

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Protesters with the group Taxis for All

 

No Booster Seats

The new taxis will not have a LATCH system or the older hook system for attaching baby seats, but I don’t really see that as a problem. LATCH is great for securely attaching a baby carrier to your own car long-term, but when riding in someone else’s car I never had a problem securing the seat with the seatbelt. The seatbelts in the Nissan NV200s will have the ratcheting feature necessary to do this.

However, there is a huge opportunity here to make cabs much safer for toddlers and small children. It’s not often that all of the cabs get replaced, and if they aren’t outfitted with child seats now it won’t happen until the next generation – I don’t want my kids telling me that finally, their kids will be able to ride in cabs, properly buckled in.

When my son Jake was two we spent a couple of weeks in London. All of their cabs have a pull-down booster seat that made traveling with a toddler super easy. I asked Andy Palmer (he’s an Executive Vice President with Nissan of too many divisions to list) about the possibility of putting booster seats into all of the new cabs, and he said that while it does make that seat a little less comfortable for adults, they’ve done it in other cities. But as with the wheelchair option, they won’t do it unless they are told to by the city or taxi owners.

So, I think it’s time to get organized and put pressure on the city. These new vehicles will start replacing older ones in October, 2013, so we still have time to make changes to the design. The fact that there is a huge, gaping hole in the seatbelt laws for kids in cabs is completely ridiculous to me. I’m guessing that it was dictated by logistics, so now is the chance to fix that.

We need to get rid of that seatbelt and baby seat exception, travel safely with our kids, and make getting around easier for those in wheelchairs. I’m hoping the city will realizing what a great opportunity this is, and step up without being sued or forced in some other way. Just do it. I’m looking at you, Mayor Bloomberg!

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Mayor Bloomberg checking out the Nissan NV200

Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.

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5 Responses to “NYC gets a cool new taxi, but misses some big opportunities”

  1. Jadzia on April 4th, 2012 9:59 am
    1

    I hope you are successful at getting those car seats! It’s hard to believe that not one person apparently mentioned this to the city during the planning process. But that’s a great tip about London!
    Jadzia recently posted..This Is Why Big Brothers Get A Bad Rap: A Scene From the YardMy Profile

    Amy Reply:

    @Jadzia: Sadly it’s all about the money. I remember when I was younger and somebody discovered that if they put a big metal bar hanging off the back of big trucks, people rear-ending them wouldn’t get decapitated so often. But, even though they only added $60 to the entire cost of a huge semi, nobody would put them on until the government made them.

  2. elissapr on April 4th, 2012 10:41 pm
    2

    Good honest review – and thanks for advocating for two huge ‘misses’ in these cabs. In this day and age, accessibility should NOT be an issue. Why wait to be mandated? While cost is clearly an issue, they should have taken this issue by the horn(s) – haha – and dealt with it upfront.

  3. kim/reluctant renovator on April 5th, 2012 9:56 pm
    3

    The new cabs sound sweet, but I love the input from the protestors and the activist slant of this piece. I hope you can make a difference in the future of NYC transportation.
    kim/reluctant renovator recently posted..Making Schmaltz: Getting Ready for Our First SederMy Profile

  4. Steven Crowell on June 9th, 2012 7:45 am
    4

    Crash testing NYC taxis has been going on for decades, with real people. The partitions are deadly and illegal. The TLC knows they are illegal. This whole project is because of what partitions have done to NYC cabs since 1968.