Despite opposition from advocates for the disabled, the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved Thursday by a 5-2 vote the so-called "Taxi of Tomorrow," which will bring the fleet of new yellow cabs to city streets in 2013. NY1's Natasha Ghoneim filed the following report.
Beginning next year, you can step into the "Taxi of Tomorrow". On Thursday morning, five years after the city launched its search for the next-generation yellow cab, the Taxi and Limousine Commission formally put the Nissan NV 200 plan in drive.
"When the 'Taxi of Tomorrow' is fully phased in, the fleet will be more fuel efficient than it is. That's because so many of the taxis of today are incredible gas guzzlers," said TLC Commissioner David Yassky.
The NV 200 was chosen from among three finalists. Among the Nissan NV200's features are an interior skylight and charging docks for passengers' electronics.
But despite the long list of rider friendly amenities, opponents are upset about what the new taxi doesn't have.
Advocates for the disabled say the needs of the disabled and a growing senior citizen population are being run over by the TLC. The new yellow cab is not wheelchair accessible without modifications.
"We won't have accessible taxis for senior citizens or people with disabilities. They won't be able to use these cabs and it'll be a huge loss," said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. "I think we could see some real legal action as a result."
The TLC says there are more than 200 wheelchair accessible cabs that can be dispatched as needed. But the rest of the more than 13,000 yellow cabs now on city streets will have to be replaced within five years.
Hybrids make up almost half the current fleet. Fleet owners say it's a mistake to force them off the road.
"It's not just about mileage," said Ethan Gerber of the Greater New York Taxi Association. "It's about clean air. When the mayor said he was in favor of clean air and the hybrids are far, far less in emissions than the Nissan vehicle, the idea we have to take them off the road is mind-boggling."
"You have to make trade-offs," said Joe Castelli, the vice president of Nissan North America. "For someone looking for a pure hybrid, it wouldn't really address the wheelchair accessibility crowd that's out there. Those two items are mutually exclusive."
Fleet owners say it will cost them $1 billion to transition to the Nissan. They're also looking at legal options. But the TLC says that come 2018, when you hail a cab, it'll most likely be the Nissan.