NYC Taxi Group: Hybrids "Unsafe and Incompatible"

September 10, 2008
New York hacks have banded together to try and tank hybrid taxis--and a new fuel-economy standard--in the city's taxicab fleet.

Engineer C. Bruce Gambardella has teamed up with the city's largest taxi advocacy group to declare hybrid yellow taxicabs in NYC "unsafe and incompatible with the rigorous demands of New York City taxicabs that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week." The group, and Gambardella, are pushing for the halt of a new city requirement to go into effect October 1 that mandates all taxicabs meet a minimum rating of 25 mpg city.

A closer read into the complaint, explained in detail on PR Newswire and sourced from the MTBOT (Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, the country's largest taxi fleet association) raises some concerns. The complaints issued are of safety regarding occupant protection during crashes.

The study says the partitions that separate front seat from rear, required by the TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission), aren't compatible with the advanced curtain airbag systems in hybrids. The partitions appeared hastily installed, and were found to block the deployment of side curtain airbags, to intrude excessively into the rear passenger compartment presenting a possible danger in a collision, and to limit the rearward travel of the cab driver's seat, potentially placing the driver to close to the steering wheel-mounted airbag--all according to the engineer.

No doubt the taxi drivers are balking at the higher sticker prices and maintenance costs of the new hybrid taxis and using the issue as a proxy. Ford's fleet-only Crown Victoria is legendarily cheap to fix and to keep running, while its lighter-duty Escape Hybrid SUV is relatively unproven.--Colin Mathews

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