What’s the perfect taxicab?
For many New York City cabbies, the answer is easy: the Crown Victoria. For years, Ford’s stretch Crown Victoria — or the Crown Vic, as many drivers endearingly refer to it — has served New Yorkers well as their iconic yellow cab. But now, as NPR reported, Ford is discontinuing production of the vehicle, citing a decline in sales of the inefficient gas-guzzler.
This news has left some cabbies crestfallen. Queens-based driver Simon Majumder raved about the Crown Vic to NPR, saying, “It is the best car. It is the best car for yellow cab. This is the best one. … Very, very, very, very best car.” He says he loves the car so much because it’s roomy and comfy, has good air conditioning, and is a pretty low-maintenance ride.
For now, it sounds like many drivers are having trouble even thinking about using a different car. Jose Guevara, a 30-year veteran in the yellow cab business, says he can think of one acceptable alternative: “I would make a smaller version of the Crown Vic. Crown Vic Jr., I would say.”
New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission is a bit more pragmatic in its approach to replacing the Crown Vic. It is currently judging contestants in its Taxi of Tomorrow contest; the winning model gets an exclusive 10-year contract to provide all of the city’s yellow cabs, replacing the Crown Vic and ten other vehicles that also currently serve as yellow cabs.
How are contestants being judged? The official request for proposals — which closed May 27 — listed the following desired characteristics:
• Highest safety standards
• Superior passenger experience
• Superior driver comfort and amenities
• Appropriate purchase price and on-going maintenance and repair costs
• Sustainability (minimized environmental impact throughout the vehicle’s life cycle)
• Minimal physical footprint (with more useable interior room)
• Universal accessibility for all users with a goal of meeting ADA guidelines
• Iconic design that will identify the new taxi with New York City
Commissioner David Yassky says of the new cab, “It’s gotta be comfortable, it’s gotta be durable, but we also want it to be a 21st century vehicle — fuel efficient, accessible for all passengers, have a design that reflects the energy of New York City.”
Accessible cabs will be a huge improvement for the fleet. Currently, less than 2 percent of the city’s cabs are wheelchair-accessible.
We’re still waiting to see if the futurustic, cab share-promoting Unicab will take over NYC’s streets — and maybe eventually even win over cab drivers’ hearts.