A rollout of new taxis is being delayed, yet again, after the Greater New York Taxi Association was granted an appeal in their impending lawsuit against the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
The rollout, which was originally planned to start in late April and has been mired in litigation, would require taxi drivers and fleets to replace their old vehicles with one specific car, the Nissan NV200 minivan, a model that many taxi drivers are arguing is not appropriate for both passengers and drivers.
Nicknamed the Taxi of Tomorrow, the model was chosen after a Taxi and Limousine competition to design a new taxicab. The NV200, with its 138 cubic feet of interior space, passenger adjustable seating, and a glass sunroof, just doesn’t cut it for some cab drivers, however, who prefer to have a choice in what kind of taxi they would be driving.
“The car is no good,” said Michael Sinder, owner of Orsap Auto Repair in Midtown. “You don’t feel like you’re in a car. It’s like you’re in a truck and it can’t take the [city’s] potholes.”
Since the former iconic New York City taxi, the Ford Crown Victoria, was discontinued in 2011, taxi drivers have been permitted to drive a variety of vehicles including the 2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Toyota Sienna Accessible and the Dodge Caravan. If the taxi commission’s plan goes through, cabbies will be forced to drive the NV200s whether they like the car or not.
Many owners that oppose the NV200, like Sinder, say it is not suitable for a taxi because the suspension is bad, the rims are too small for the car, and the elevated step passengers use to climb in and out of the car’s backseat can be dangerous. Sinder also cited the model’s automatic partition and that the Nissan does not come in a hybrid model as some of the reasons why some drivers don’t like the car. He argues that that other car models, like the 2015 Toyota Camry, would be more suitable.
Others like Tazul Islam, manager at J & I Maintenance Corp. in Brooklyn also said that taxi drivers in his company hate driving the NV200 and noted that many of them refer to it as a school bus. For this reason, Islam does not plan on adding the model to his fleet of cabs for now.
“Unless we have no other choice, we are not going to get it,” said Islam. “Drivers at our fleet get a sense of relief that we don’t have them here.”
But even after many taxi drivers and dispatchers have made it clear that they are opposed to the NV200, the Taxi and Limousine Commission is confident in its decision to phase in the model as older taxis retire from fleets. A spokesman disputed the arguments against the vehicle, which is already in some fleets throughout the city.
“There are almost 700 NV200s on the road today, all purchased voluntarily by fleets and individual medallion owners because they appreciated the vehicle’s advantages—passengers love them!” said Allan J.Fromberg, a spokesman from the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Chris Harisopoulos, a taxi dispatcher at McGuiness Management Corp in Brooklyn, said that he has about 20 NV200s in his fleet, and some of his drivers, who lease the model seem to like it. However, he added, that in the few months since McGuiness Management has added the model to the fleet, he has noticed a recurrent problem with its tires. The main problem with the car, he said, is that its tire rims are too small for the car, causing frequent flat tires.
Despite that, Harisopoulos sees the advantage of using a signature car. It’s better for business, he said, because more parts will be available when these cars need to be repaired.
Some cabbies aren’t necessarily opposed to the NV200 model, but feel that they should be able to choose which car they will drive.
A spokesman from the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, a non-profit credit union for taxi drivers, said that the organization is in support of the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s decision to choose passenger safety and comfort first. But he said the organization feels there are many vehicles that are just as spacious and comparable to the NV200, like the Ford Transit Connect.
“We should have options,” he said. “Perhaps the TLC should mandate specs for vehicles. We just want choice.”