NYC Taxi Association Fails to Stop “Taxi of Tomorrow”

The Greater New York Taxi Association's efforts to stop a controversial project to modernize the city's taxi fleet reached a dead end last week after an appeals court said the city's plans were legal.

It’s been a series of stops and starts for the “Taxi of Tomorrow” in New York City.

The initiative, started under former mayor Michael Bloomberg, has faced legal hiccups, thanks to lawsuits filed by the Greater New York Taxi Association (GNYTA). But last week, a state appeals court may have put an end to the legal battle.

In 2013, GNYTA sued over the Taxi of Tomorrow effort, arguing that the city government, along with the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), overstepped its authority in forcing cab companies to all buy the same cab. But the court’s ruling on Thursday stated that the endeavor was legal.

“The choice of the best possible vehicle for use as a taxi plainly fits within the purposes of the TLC to develop and improve taxi service as part of the city’s overall public transportation system,” Judge Leslie Stein wrote in her decision.

What’s the “Taxi of Tomorrow?”

The ruling is the latest stop on a long road for the Taxi of Tomorrow. The endeavor came about as part of a contest, open both to businesses and to the public, to find the “vehicle of the future.”

Ultimately, Nissan North America, Inc., won with its proposed NV200 van in 2011, earning a 10-year contract to supply the city with 13,000 taxis.

The idea was to create a recognizable taxi fleet, with as many as 80 percent of vehicles being NV200s. But the legal battles, as well as complaints about the vehicles, have hampered that long-term goal.

The cabs have received mixed reviews: While they offer mobile charging stations, passenger airbags, more legroom, and extra luggage space, some cab companies raised concerns about their lack of wheelchair accessibility and hybrid engines.

“We are still forced to purchase one car for our entire industry, and to give up 99 percent of the hybrids that are on the road,” GNYTA Executive Director Ethan Gerber told the Wall Street Journal in 2013.

The company and the city worked on these issues, with Nissan later releasing an updated model offering accessibility features, and the city saying it would allow for some exceptions to purchasing the NV200.

Embracing the Decision

Still, that didn’t stop the lawsuit, and the taxi association now finds itself on the losing side, something it has chosen to live with.

“We are disappointed in the court’s ruling. This law is an over-reaching holdover of the Bloomberg administration,” a GNYTA spokesman told Curbed. “That said, it is time to move on.”

Now, taxi companies will eventually replace their old Ford Crown Victorias and other vehicles with the updated fleet—removing the freedom of choice the companies once had in picking their cars but creating more consistency across the board.

Which means that the Taxi of Tomorrow will soon become the Taxi of Today.

An example of the "Taxi of Tomorrow," a Nissian NV200. (Wikimedia Commons)

Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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