New York's "Taxi of Tomorrow" -- Not Wheelchair friendly!

After a several year selection process, New York selected the NV200 van from Nissan to be the official new standardized taxi vehicle. Beating out competitors from Ford & other makers, the Nissan vehicle chosen by the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission as the "Tax of Tomorrow" has several benefits benefits over vehicles like the Ford Crown Victoria and other vehicles commonly used as taxis today. Passengers in the Nissan vans will enjoy sightseeing with a transparent roof, be safe with passenger air bags, and appreciate the anti-microbial seats. Environmentalists will be happy with the new taxi fleets getting better fuel economy thanks to its smaller engine.

What some passengers won't appreciate is that they won't be able to even get in the van.

Despite its larger size to for greater legroom & passenger space, and despite being based on an existing cube-like van design, the Nissan NV200 taxi has no out-of-the-box accommodations for wheelchairs.

There will be around 13,000 Nissan NV200 taxi vans on the streets of New York City after the introduction of them starts in October, 2013. The complete phasing out of the existing vehicles to the new official vehicles is expected to take between three-to-five years.

There 230 taxis in the current fleet that are wheelchair accessible. Passenger needing them have to make a request to the taxi dispatcher and make arrangements accordingly.

Some people are upset the selection of the Nissan NV200 as the new official taxi.

NY Assemblyman Micah Kellner, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, and public advocate Bill de Blasio have put forth the idea that the selection process was influenced by the company that the taxi commission hired to provide technical expertise. The company, Ricardo Inc., previously did work for Ford and Renault. Renault is a French automaker that owns 43% of Nissan.

In June of this year a federal appeals court rules that the NYC taxi system was compliant with federal disabilities laws in response to a class action lawsuit brought by advocates for the disabled. Julia Pinover, a lawyer for Disability Rights Advocates, the group who filed the lawsuit, maintains that the fight "was still very much alive."

NYC Comptroller John C. Liu formerly rejected NYC Mayor Bloomberg's contract with Nissan today for not being wheelchair accessible. Liu stated in a news conference that "This contract ignores the civil rights of New Yorkers who use wheelchairs. Serious issues remain as to whether the Taxi of Tomorrow violates the Americans with Disabilities Act." In reference to recent events, Liu stated "In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, mandating a taxi that is not wheelchair accessible raises a grave risk that people who use wheelchairs will not be able to evacuate."

The rejection however is moot because it is up to the NYC Mayor to then decides if the contract has merit or not to be rejected. Mayor Bloomberg, a champion of the Nissan NV200, immediately responded to Liu that he will not be accepting the Comptroller rejections. Under NYC rules of government, the Comptroller will then be forced to accept the contract once the Mayor formally overrides the Comptroller objections.

In defense of the NV200, a Nissan spokesman released an email stating "Nissan understands and respects the concerns presented by disability advocates, which is why the NV200 is being designed so that it can be modified for wheelchair users." A lower step-in height and grab bars can also be retrofitted into the NV200.

The reason why Bloomberg is such a strong proponent of the NV200 is that London chose the same vehicle to replace the iconic black cabs for the streets of London. The London based NV200 will have a smaller engine then the NYC model. Longer term an NVE200 model with an electric drivetrain is undergoing testing for London to meet a 2020 emissions target set by the London city mayor.

Pinover notes the NYC taxi commission failed by not insisting that the Taxi of Tomorrow design include wheelchair ramps. She stated that NV200 taxis to be introduced to London will include accessibility features, while in New York, “they chose an iPod deck, a moon roof, but not a ramp.”
 

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Kevin

Code Monkey
Staff member
It is a bit shocking that for something that was so highly touted as a vision of the future for the city that wheelchair accessibility was not one of the basic requirements! :o_O:
 
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