Home Asides NY state court blocks Taxi of Tomorrow plan

NY state court blocks Taxi of Tomorrow plan

by Benjamin Kabak

With just a few weeks to go before the rules implementing the Taxi of Tomorrow were to take effect, one of Mayor Bloomberg’s signature plans may be dead as a New York State judge ruled today that the city does not have the authority to implement such a plan. In siding with the taxi industry over the city in the battle over the Nissan NV200, Judge Shlomo Hagler summed up his view, “Simply stated, the power to contract and compel medallion owners to purchase the Nissan NV200 from Nissan for ten years does not exist in the City Charter.” Rather, Hagler opined, the City Council should set these standards.

Bloomberg, no friend of the taxi industry, had first announced the Taxi of Tomorrow competition as a way to leverage the city’s purchasing power while selecting cars that were safe and spacious. The move has come under fire in recent months though as the Nissan NV200s are not as fuel-efficient as the options available for the current fleet and aren’t handicap-accessible either. His administration will appeal, but it is unclear if our next mayor would continue the site as both Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio have not embraced the Taxi of Tomorrow.

Meanwhile, as Ted Mann notes in The Journal, this ruling could leave the city liable to Nissan for some costs as well. As Mann writes, “The carmaker’s contract with the TLC would permit it to recoup design and production costs in the event the taxi project is cancelled by the city. Nissan estimated those costs, in a document previously filed with the court, at roughly $50 million, though some familiar with the matter have said the costs could be higher.”

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Matt October 8, 2013 - 5:22 pm

What distinguishes the Nissan NV200 from the Caprice and the Town Car? I had assumed that NYC kept uniform fleets in the past by mandating the purchase of a certain car. Is that not the case? Were all cabs Caprices and then Town Cars because that’s what was available in taxi configurations?

Matt October 8, 2013 - 5:30 pm

And by Town Car I of course mean Crown Vic.

Alex October 8, 2013 - 5:36 pm

Beat me to it.

Alex October 8, 2013 - 5:36 pm

Crown Vics, not Town Cars. But this does seem like a return to the Checker Taxis of way back when. I believe there was a law that said cabs had to be “purpose built” back then. Not too different from NV200.

Lady Feliz October 9, 2013 - 3:47 am

Full-size, rear wheel drive cars were easy to maintain and/or repair. By the mid-90s the Ford Crown Victoria and Chevy Caprice were the only such cars being produced for reasonable prices. Before then, the Ford LTD and Chrysler’s mid-size Plymouth Gran Fury and Dodge Diplomat ruled NYC streets. They were roomy, had decent trunks, and had engines/suspensions that could withstand NYC streets. Parts were plentiful too since the 1982-89 Fury/Diplomat were just warmed-over 1976-80 Volares/Aspens with engines dating from the late ’50s/early 60s.

Not sure why today’s Dodge Charger couldn’t fit the bill. It’s roomy, has lots of trunk, and relatively cheap. Many police/fleet carsxin the US are Chargers, and Chrysler has always catered to the fleet market. Maybe it’s an ADA compliance issue? If so, why not use Chrysler’s tried-and-true Minivans?

BruceNY October 9, 2013 - 5:51 pm

Give me a Crown Vic any day of the week where I can lean back & relax vs. those mini-vans (with seats that make me feel I’m sitting in a highchair) and those SUV things which are awkard to climb up into. Oh well, so this is progress?

Anyway, I doubt that the ADA issue had anything to do regarding the Dodge Charger as even the NV200 is not accessible to wheelchairs.

Hendo December 24, 2014 - 11:08 am

The current Dodge Charger/Chrysler 300 would make a poor taxi because it lacks body on frame construction. The advantages of this style of construction for a fleet vehicle is extensive(I suggest you Google the subject if you need clarification). The Charger/300 have expensive parts, weak independent rear suspension and overly sophisticated engines. The Crown Victoria/Town Car(Panther chassis) WAS the best possible vehicle left for this sort of work. The only vehicles left that would be tough, simple and cheap enough would be full size 1/2 ton pickup trucks. Unfortunately those are too large and inefficient to be taxis because they were designed to haul cargo and tow rather than to carry people.

SEAN October 8, 2013 - 5:44 pm

Does this meen we are going to end up with the taxi of yesterday?

JJJ October 8, 2013 - 6:23 pm

Their fatal mistake was choosing the worst option.

“The carmaker’s contract with the TLC would permit it to recoup design and production costs”

Wait, what? Its an off the shelf model widely used in Japan…

Matt October 8, 2013 - 9:29 pm

The city had a number of special requirements. There was also a puff piece in either the NYP or WSJ where Nissan described the special testing facility they’d built and changes they’d made to keep the NV200 from falling apart on NYC streets.

AlexB October 8, 2013 - 6:48 pm

The outer borough taxi plan is great but the taxi of tomorrow just seems like a bad replacement. Imagine if they made all cabs accesible and replaced the terrible access-a-ride service with vouchers? Maybe even combine it with a specialized Uber-like system available to the disabled? They could save a ton of money. And why not have them all be EVs to significantly reduce pollutants at street level? The general ugliness of the taxi of tomorrow just adds insult to injury – more like the taxi of 1993.

AG October 8, 2013 - 8:59 pm

The yellow taxi industry is quite strange… first when the mayor wanted to make it an all hybrid fleet they sued… then one of the reasons they are against the Taxi of Tomorrow is because they say there is no hybrid option..??
The taxi of tomorrow is kind of ugly… and it does take away choices… BUT they should have allowed for the hybrid statute. The judge claimed the city had no jurisdiction to set emissions standards – because the federal government alone does… That is strange since the city can mandate what type of heating oil is allowed in buildings. That is effectively an emissions law. No wonder there are so many lawyers.

Matt October 8, 2013 - 9:27 pm

I think the taxi industry is pretty easy to understand. They want to be able to buy the least expensive vehicles they can to maximize the return on their medallion purchases. All it takes is a little cynicism to understand their arguments in the two cases. They wanted both requirements nixed, so they and their lawyers make the cases they need to make in order to eliminate the requirements.

Lady Feliz October 9, 2013 - 3:50 am

Bingo. That and the Nissan NV200 is one ugly car.

AG October 9, 2013 - 12:23 pm

Well I understand them… They just like to cause obstruction. They even fought the outer-borough green taxis.

I was moreso talking about the courts… they allow some measures and not others depending on industry.
Being that taxis need a specific license and air quality directly affects citizens of each city – I couldn’t understand why the ruling came down that the city couldn’t force them all to have hybrids. In effect that failure brought about this ugly taxi.

Spendmore Wastemore October 9, 2013 - 8:00 pm

Air quality in Manhattan is mostly shot by

i) Buildings which use bunker fuel. The stuff’s *nasty* and doesn’t burn completely in the old, indestructible, paid-for boilers that use it.
ii) Beat, worn diesels that skate by inspection “somehow”. These can pump out many times more junk than on with the injectors calibrated correctly and enough compression to fire 100% of the time.
iii) A few badly maintained cars, those which are misfiring and burning oil.

A modern (last 10-15 years) gas powered car in good condition, one not used for 10 minute put-put trips and then parked, runs surprisingly clean. Taxis are “long” trips in this sens, they run 12-24 hrs per day, for that reasonthey run cleaner than the average car if given reasonable maintenance.

Once a car is so worn or gunked up from short trips and warmup/shutoff cycles that it loses oil control it’s like an incontinent NYC subway resident; it spews 100x as much filth as when new. One hippie’s blue-smoking ’92 Volvo puts out more poison than a fleet of Maybachs.

Karm October 9, 2013 - 10:27 pm

Those building fuels are being phased out… NYC has good air for a major city.

Hybrids are actually preferred and purchased by the majority of yellow cabs now. Why? They spend a lot of time in stop and go traffic – so it saves them money because the gas engine is not always running.

AG October 10, 2013 - 6:56 pm


Over 80 percent of the newest yellow taxi’s purchased were hybrids (and most of the “green” ones seem to be)… it was a waste to fight it… it was for the benefit of the city… and most drivers pockets.

Nathanael October 12, 2013 - 4:25 pm

The drivers are looking at the money. The hybrids have clearly proven to save them a lot of money. One even bought a fully electric cars to save money.

Turns out profits are better with electricity.

AG October 12, 2013 - 4:43 pm

exactly… that’s why I don’t know why they fought it. I guess they just don’t like any regulation… even when it’s for something they do like (makes no sense).

Matt October 12, 2013 - 5:01 pm

I suspect it’s as simple as them not wanting to be told what to buy. I suspect they saw the hybrid mandate as opening the door for any number of other restrictions. So why open the door? Let Bloomberg go meddle elsewhere. As has been mentioned, his meddling wasn’t even necessary, as the economics of hybrids allow them to make the case for themselves.

AG October 12, 2013 - 6:35 pm

it’s not meddling… taxis are NOT the free market consumers. they are a regulated industry…. but they are controlled by a few rich guys who have to puff out their chest and by influence from certain politicians.. I guess you think anybody should be able to operate a taxi with any kind of vehicle they want…? in fact the recklessness of taxi drivers show they need more regulation not just for their vehicles but also their driving priviledges.

Matt October 13, 2013 - 9:06 am

You’re right. You got me. Clearly my ulterior motive is to get the owners to be able to equip their drivers with $200 deathtraps driven straight off the scrapyard.

Kai B October 9, 2013 - 12:37 pm

Remember how back in 2008 the city tried to mandate only hybrids be purchased going forward and that was shot down by the courts? I never understood how the NV200 mandate was any different.


Lady Feliz October 9, 2013 - 2:02 pm

Is there another city in the US that forces cab drivers to buy one particular model car, and one only? In most cities, Chevy Impalas, Chrysler Minivans and Toyota’s Prius hybrid seem to work just fine.

Kai B October 9, 2013 - 4:23 pm

NYC most likely has the most regulated cab industry in the country. But it does have advantages in that you know what you’re getting (such as the ability to pay with credit card), the yellow color helps you spot them from afar, you have a central point of reference to call for complaints, etc.

I personally don’t have a problem with different models. As a tall person, I do find the Ford Escape models very cramped, but I also think this Nissan is a monstrosity.

Spendmore Wastemore October 9, 2013 - 8:07 pm

The Escape taxi is misery on wheels, as is the Prius. A hybrid one size up from that would have been a better choice, but since Bloomberg never actually rode in one he decided the Escape would be just fine. I doubt he paid any attention to what vehicles were included in his push for hybrid cabs, other than sporting the hybrid label.

Karm October 9, 2013 - 10:28 pm

What does the mayor have to do with the Escape or Prius? The fleets choose to buy them – not the mayor.

Karm October 9, 2013 - 10:20 pm

if I’m not mistaken – San Fran is all hybrid. like many things though – it’s useless comparing other cities in the U.S. to NYC. everything is orders of magnitude more complicated.

Nathanael October 12, 2013 - 4:28 pm

It’s worth noting that the court’s ruling is largely based in the fact that the Mayor and Taxi and Limo Commission ignored the directives of the City Council. The City Council has stated its intent to shift to accessible and clean-air taxis; the flagrant disregard for this stated intent is mentioned several times in the ruling.

In addition, it’s very clear that mandating a specific model is not OK.

A legitimate set of regulations would describe a lot of features but in terms such that any company could build a knock-off copy. A legitimate set of regulations would also pursue the goals set by City Council (accessibility, clean air), rather than just haring off on their own.


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