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.
The sedan is out, the van is in. Three mini-van like automobiles are finalists for the city's next official taxi design. Car makers Ford, Nissan and Karsan USA have all made the cut.
New York city's iconic taxi cab is about to get a makeover, as the city prepares to select a new taxi design.
The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum's Paul Herzan thinks the designs are an improvement over what's on the road now.
"My guess is that you see sliding doors and you think mom-van, and I don't think so necessarily. I think they look pretty futuristic," Herzan said.
Only the design by Karsan is fully wheelchair accessible. It also has a clear roof for sky gazing. Nissan expects their entry to soon be fully electric. The Ford taxi looks roomy, and may appeal to the taxi industry which has relied on the manufacturer for decades.
But some industry insiders have expressed concern about in the move to select just one model for all drivers.
Today's fleet of cabs is made up of 16 vehicle models from nine different manufacturers. The mainstay, Ford's Crown Victoria, was recently discontinued.
Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said durability is key. "Our vehicles drive significantly more miles than even taxis used in other big cities and weather conditions that are more exacting. New York City, unlike other big cities, has both quite cold and days and quite hot days."
The TLC will be airing public service announcements with Commissioner Yassky, inviting New Yorkers to weigh in -- chiefly on monitors in the back of yellow cabs.
"We're working on designing the taxi of tomorrow and we want your help making the right choices. Here's an example: everyone wants to help the environment, but smaller cars have less leg room. Which is more important to you?"
In the PSA, Yassky offers the enticement of being entered in a drawing to win free taxi trips for a year if participants fill out a 13-question survey about what cab features are most important to them.
The winning automaker will be announced early next year and officials expect the new vehicle to begin hitting the streets by the fall of 2014.