Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow

Having redesigned almost everything else – from bike racks to sidewalk scaffolding – New York is now moving on to the redesign of its taxi. This is being done through, of course, another big competition. Due to the nature of the product, this one is among vehicle manufacturers rather than designers. They’ve even got a dedicated web site for the competition, where the public can provide its input and feedback on the three finalists. The idea is that the city will standardize on a single design for the next decade, signing an exclusive contract worth up to $1 billion.

Here are the entries. First, an adaption of an existing vehicle by Ford:

Next, one by Nissan:

Lastly, a ground up design from a Turkish company called Karsan. This is apparently the only one that is full accessible to the disabled at the moment, and also potentially supports wi-fi.

Personally, I think the styling on all of them leaves much to be desired. Too mini-vanish. Of course, I realize that functionality has to trump coolness. And although I appreciate classic design, I think the vehicle livery on this is definitely due for a refresh. That’s something that could be done in an open competition with artists and designers. The goal should be something classic, but which also has the potential to become iconic in its own right.

Whatever the case, New York shows yet again that it’s out pushing the envelope and and re-examining literally everything it does to make it more relevant to the 21st century global age. I’m not saying that any particular thing jumped out at me as awesome about these cabs. But it shows a mind set of taking a deliberate look at every aspect of city governance and services to figure out how to make it better and contribute to a more livable city.

You can read additional coverage in the New York Times.

More on New York:
New York’s Leadership in Transportation Design
Another Epic Public Space Win in New York
Janette Sadik-Khan on Changing the Transportation Game
New York’s Quality of Life Agenda
The High Line

10 Comments
Topics: Architecture and Design, Transportation
Cities: New York

10 Responses to “New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow”

  1. Eric M says:

    Ugh. I agree the stylish is dull and un-interesting. I hate minivan taxis so much that I actually let minivan taxis pass me in areas where there are plenty of other taxis.

    In Chicago, my two favorite taxis other than the Crown Vics that are the current standard, are the Prius, which I think actually makes a fantastic taxi, and the Scion xB (which is technically a minivan, but a much better styled one).

  2. Everett says:

    It’s a great mindset. It also helps that NYC has the wherewithal to be able to pursue these endeavors. If it was any smaller of a city, I think they would just get laughed at. Imagine a city like Carmel, Indiana or Naperville, Illinois trying anything like this. Those cities just don’t have the dollars for such large projects. That is not to say that they shouldn’t be commended for the projects that they can afford and have implemented.

  3. John says:

    It’s nice to have a standard design, but doesn’t having a limited production vehicle drive up the cost of the vehicle?

    I think this oversteps the regulatory boundaries of government. Who are they to decide what kind of vehicle I’m going to drive for my business? Beyond that, it seems like sometimes you want a big taxi/van and sometimes you want a little taxi/sedan. Why should they all be the same?

  4. That’s certainly a valid point of view. But I believe in the case of NYC, they already standardized on Crown Vics a while back, with perhaps some other options like SUVs in the mix. NYC also utilizes a standard livery, etc.

  5. George Mattei says:

    I agree, I don’t think they all need to be the same.

    However in terms of the cost of a limited design vehicle, you’re right if the market is small. But the NYC taxi market is huge, and I have to imagine they could get to an economy of scale that would allow some significant cost savings.

  6. Chris Barnett says:

    NYC already closely regulates taxis. It’s not a free market, John. They consider it a regulated public utility.

    They should mandate gas-electric hybrid, fuel cell, or CNG power plant regardless of the design.

    Wonder if Steve Goldsmith reads here. :)

  7. Wad says:

    Long Beach, California, has imported London’s black hackney carriages for taxi service.

    These are similar to the minivan-style cars pictured above.

    See a photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/southerncalifornian/288843006/ .

    New York wants to settle on a single specification for design, but what about powertrain? Historically, in New York and other cities, taxi cars have long been the equivalent of police cruiser packages — Ford Crown Victorias, Chevrolet Caprices, Dodge Diplomats. Will taxis still need 8 cylinders and body-on-frame construction?

  8. Alon Levy says:

    @John: for a smaller city, you’d be right – off-the-shelf would be best. But New York is such a huge buyer that it can buy in bulk even if it insists on its own designs, much like London. Companies make an effort to get the contract, limiting prices in order to get their foot in the door so that they have an established line of taxis to sell.

    The cost of those taxis is about $25,000 per unit, which is comparable to retail price for a new hybrid sedan.

  9. BrianTH says:

    Standardization can be pretty important from a user-perspective. I was just in London on a vacation with an extended family group, and it was very nice knowing how many people and how much luggage we could fit in a standard London cab.

    And yes, a standard cab should be an efficient open box (aka mini-vanish). You can play around with the styling a bit, but that basic form should be used.

  10. John says:

    @Chris,
    I don’t see past precedent as a valid justification for continuing the practice. Nevertheless, I don’t have a problem regulating the taxi industry to some degree. It’s nice to have a common fare structure, and know that credit cards have to be accepted. I just don’t think the design of the vehicle needs to be one of the aspects they regulate. Chicago doesn’t have a common taxi vehicle and it has no negative impact on service that I can tell.

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