Taxi of Tomorrow
Proposed Rules: Closed to Comments
Statement of Basis and Purpose of Rule
Over 600,000 people per day ride in medallion taxicabs regulated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Since the end of taxicab manufacture by the Checker Motors Corporation in the early 1980s, none of the vehicles used by the New York City medallion taxicab industry have been designed especially for taxicab service. Since these cars have not been designed or engineered specifically for taxi use, they have not included features and amenities that would be beneficial to taxi owners, drivers, and passengers. Nor have they incorporated the latest technologies, accessibility features for people with disabilities, or safety advances. Most important, none of the vehicles currently in use as taxicabs are designed and manufactured to meet federal safety standards in their taxi configuration. In particular, the presence of a partition installed after the vehicle is manufactured and crash-tested creates an increased risk of head and face injuries.[i]
In 2007, the City issued a Request for Information (RFI) and convened a Taxi of Tomorrow Advisory Committee (comprised of taxi drivers, passengers, medallion owners, advocates for people with disabilities, advocates for the environment, various taxi driver and owner organizations, and designers) to help ensure that the new taxicab meets the needs of diverse stakeholders.
In 2009, the City issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking an exclusive provider of taxicabs to the medallion taxi industry. It sought a vehicle that offered:
· Compliance with federal safety standards even with a partition installed
· Superior passenger experience
· Superior driver comfort and amenities
· Appropriate purchase price and on-going maintenance and repair costs
· Minimal environmental impact
· Minimal physical footprint with more useable interior room
· Accessibility for all users
· Iconic design that will identify the taxi with New York City
After receipt of 7 proposals from a variety of manufacturers, and a year-long detailed evaluation process, the City selected the Nissan NV200 to be the exclusive taxicab vehicle. The NV200 taxicabs will be known as Official Taxicab Vehicle (OTV) or the Accessible Official Taxicab Vehicle (AOTV).
The City subsequently negotiated at length with Nissan North America (Nissan) to secure several important features for taxi owners, passengers and drivers.
The OTV will be available in both a standard and a wheelchair accessible version. Additionally, forthcoming models will meet the hybrid requirements set forth in New York City Administrative Code Section 19-533. More importantly, the 19-533 compliant version of the OTV will also be available in a wheelchair accessible version, making it New York City’s first ever hybrid and wheelchair accessible taxicab.
Safety: The City negotiated with Nissan to ensure that all versions of the OTV have the following safety features:
· Crash-tested with the partition installed;
· Equipped with side passenger airbags designed to deploy without interference from the partition;
· Sliding doors to prevent crashes with cyclists and other vehicles;
· Illuminated lights on the rear exterior to inform cyclists and other drivers that doors are opening;
· Front end of the vehicle is designed to reduce severity of injuries to pedestrians in case of an accident;
· Seatbelts and seatbelt connectors are highlighted with color to encourage seatbelt use; and
· Backup cameras for drivers
Passenger amenities include:
· Suspension and ride quality engineered for rear passenger comfort
· More knee room
· Rear HVAC controls with separate climate control for passenger
· Entry and exit step with grab handles and completely flat floor
· Sliding doors that are easier to open than sliding doors in current taxis
· Transparent skyroof with passenger controlled shade
· Extra room for luggage
· Passenger controlled reading lights
· Floor lighting to assist in locating lost objects
· USB and 12 volt charging ports
· Intercom for easy communication with driver
· Hearing loop to facilitate communication with driver for those with compatible hearing aids
· Odor-absorbing roof panel and seats with antimicrobial components
· Low annoyance horn and exterior horn light to identify over-honking
Driver amenities include:
· Driver’s seat that is adjustable even with the partition installed
· Breathable seat fabric
· Built-in navigation system
· Front passenger seat folds to become driver workspace
· Tray in the partition is ergonomically designed to pass currency and receipts back and forth through the partition so the driver does not have to twist his or her arm around
The proposed rule requires that if a medallion owner acquires a new vehicle on or after the activation date for the Taxi of Tomorrow, the owner must hack up the medallion with the Taxi of Tomorrow vehicle, to be known as the Official Taxicab Vehicle or the Accessible Official Taxicab Vehicle. The rule requires the TLC to provide at least 120 days notice to medallion owners prior to the date after which unrestricted medallions must be hacked-up with the Official Taxicab Vehicle. The rule also makes certain, largely technical changes, to current taxicab rules to account for the fact that the Official Taxicab Vehicle will be manufactured and delivered under specifications set by contract with the manufacturer of the vehicle.
To ensure compliance with New York City Administrative Code Section 19-533, which provides that “one or more hybrid electric vehicle models . . . shall be eligible for immediate use by all current and future medallion owners,” the rule also provides that from the activation date until an OTV meets the requirements of section 19-533, a medallion owner may choose to hack up his or her medallion with a vehicle that is a hybrid electric vehicle, provided that the vehicle meets specifications included in this rulemaking (the “Hybrid Specifications”). The Hybrid Specifications do not require that the vehicle be crash-tested with a partition installed, in recognition of the fact that, at present, no commercially available hybrid electric vehicle is crash- tested with a partition installed. The TLC acknowledges that passengers in those vehicles will not have all the safety benefits of the OTV and the AOTV.
However, the Hybrid Specifications do include requirements for interior volume and for passenger-operated climate control that are designed to ensure that taxi passengers traveling in hybrid electric taxis other than the OTV receive a passenger experience comparable to that afforded by the OTV and the AOTV.
The TLC prioritized comfort amenities based on customer survey responses, passenger experience, and input received at a City Council hearing. In a passenger survey conducted by the TLC in 2010, over 66 percent of respondents indicated that more storage room or a larger trunk would be an important improvement. Further highlighting the need for luggage space, over 50 percent of respondents answered that they commonly use taxicabs when they travel or when they have luggage. Twenty-nine percent of passengers surveyed responded that the passenger compartment of taxis is too small or uncomfortable.
The proposed rule also takes into account the needs of passengers who use taxis to get to airports. With over 50 million people visiting New York City last year, many of them use taxicabs as a reliable means of transportation to and from the airports. In 2012, taxis made over 9.6 million total trips to or from the airports. This averages out to over two airport trips per cab each day, making airport trips an integral part of daily taxi operations. Given this, ensuring that a certain amount of luggage space exists in all taxicabs is an important objective for passengers.
Another problem indicated by passengers is interior air quality. In 2012, the TLC received over 100 passenger complaints about air quality, ventilation, odors, or temperature inside the cab. In some cases, the passenger complained that the driver refused to use or adjust the temperature or ventilation. At a City Council hearing on March 5th 2013, Council Member David Greenfield complained about the odor and lack of ventilation in some taxicabs and asked the Commission to address this issue.
The proposed rule includes certain exceptions to the requirement that medallion owners must hack up their medallions with either the OTV or the AOTV:
· From the activation date until an OTV meets the requirements of section 19-533, owners of medallions restricted to use with alternative fuel vehicles may not hack up their vehicles with an OTV or AOTV, but rather must hack up with vehicles meeting the Hybrid Specifications.
· Owners of medallions that are restricted to use with Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles, including 231 such medallions that have already been issued and any medallions that will be issued in the future, may purchase either an AOTV or any accessible taxicab which meets the accessible vehicle specifications set forth in Rule 67-05.2.
· With TLC’s authorization, owners of up to 496 unrestricted medallions issued prior to January 1, 2012 who choose to use an accessible vehicle may purchase any accessible Taxicab which meets the accessible vehicle specifications set forth in Rule 67-05.2.
· Until the Commissioner certifies that there is a hybrid version of the OTV, owners of unrestricted medallions may purchase any hybrid vehicle meeting the requirements of Rule 67-05.1C
Retirement Deadlines and Public Hearing
A public hearing on the rules as proposed was held by the TLC on September 6, 2012. Among the public comments received as testimony were several suggestions that the TLC consider granting retirement extensions to owners of vehicles retiring before the OTV activation date to facilitate a smooth roll out of the ToT vehicle and to allow some owners to wait to buy a ToT vehicle rather than being forced to buy a non-ToT vehicle before the OTV activation date. The staff considered this suggestion and agreed, proposing to amend vehicle retirement requirements for certain vehicles as follows:
· Taxicabs currently scheduled to retire beginning November 1, 2012 through May 31, 2013 will receive an extension through December 1, 2013 or such earlier date on which the owner elects to hack up a TOT vehicle.
· Taxicabs currently scheduled to retire beginning June 1, 2013 through September 30, 2013 will receive an extension of six months, or such earlier date on which the owner elects to hack up a TOT vehicle.
· To obtain an extension, an owner must file an election form with the TLC and specify the date by which they intend to hack up a TOT vehicle. The hack up date becomes the new scheduled retirement date.
· Owners electing to participate and obtain an extension must acquire a TOT vehicle at the retirement of the existing vehicle.
· Owners will obtain the extension will not be permitted to hack up a different vehicle before the newly elected scheduled retirement date unless a TOT vehicle is hacked up.
· Owners will not be permitted to hack up another vehicle before the TOT vehicle becomes available. The TLC can grant exemptions to this requirement for good cause.
The Commission’s authority for this rules change is found in section 2303 of the New York City Charter and section 19-503 and 19-533 of the New York City Administrative Code.
[i] Articles about the danger posed by partitions.
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/didn-seat-belt-new-york-city-cab-suffered-serious-injury-crash-face-smashed-partition-article-1.1036865 and http://www.nytimes.com/1996/07/15/nyregion/metro-matters-cab-partitions-helping-driver-but-not-rider.html