Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
An iconic symbol of the city is facing a makeover. The city is holding an international design competition to redesign the yellow cab. The winner will have the exclusive right to make taxis for the next decade.
Currently 16 different vehicles are approved for use as taxis. But the city is looking for a single model that will be used by all: one that is safe, comfortable, fuel efficient, affordable and accessible.
The group included the head of the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission, David Yassky, as well as the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities, leaders in the design community, an auto consultant, the president of a group of fleet owners and an owner-driver.
The cabbie, Cliff Adler, who's been driving for more than 30 years, hopes the city considers the comfort of the driver who’s often behind the wheel for 10 or more hours. He believes it's also asking for trouble to rely on just one taxi manufacturer.
“There's gonna come a day when something is in short supply and you're gonna see, 300, 600 cabs, one going down after the other because they’re missing some part.”
The President of the Metropolitan Taxi Cab Board of Trade, Ron Sherman, also worries that malfunctions could cause headaches if there isn't more variety.
"We feel that there should be at least 2 or 3 choices -- that stakes are too high to rely on just one provider to accomplish this."
Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yasky says the benefits of working with a single automaker are worth the risks.
"Only the city government can act on behalf of the entire industry in getting the best deal possible from the manufacturers. I think that's worth it."
He says that no other city has ever tried this, but that the only way to meet all the goals is by being pro-active and not picking from what is already on the market.
Finalists are expected to be announced by the beginning of next year. The winning design will officially hit the road by 2014. The city expects that the entire current taxi fleet will be replaced within three to five years of the introduction of the new cabs.