Coming: New York’s New Taxi

Karsan V1, one of the options in the running to become New York City's next cab

New York City has been having a long-running competition for a new cab design and will announce results in about a month. The Times did a big piece recently on the Ford Transit Connect, which is one of three options in the running, so we know which one they’re endorsing.

We reported a while back on the Transit Connect Electric, and it has had some success in fleets. If chosen for New York, it would be initially gas powered. The city lost its Supreme Court battle to enforce hybrids-only for its new taxis, at least for now, but one-third of the present taxi fleet (4,300 yellow cabs) is hybrid.

The other two designs in the running are: the Karsan V1 (above), built in Turkey, featuring a glass roof and wheelchair accessibility, and the Nissan NV200, built in Canton, Miss., and adapted from a commercial van. All three have lots of headroom, legroom and luggage space. Any would be an improvement over what is on the streets now.

Ford and Nissan taxisI just got back from New York after a two-year absence and rode in three different kinds of cab there. Each is pretty common, and each has its boosters, though the Ford Crown Victoria is dominant. Some interesting statistics and history can be found on the city’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” website. New York voters (66 percent) on the site liked the Karsan design best.

You climb into a Crown Vic, and it’s like a womb. This is a big, sturdy car with a large trunk, but it still feels cramped inside. The Ford Escape Hybrid has even less legroom, and you are jammed up against the driver’s partition. The Toyota Sienna has the most room inside, and the sliding doors are great for easy entry and exit.

My driver didn’t like that car, however, and went into a diatribe about how the city was dictating what its cab owners must put on the street. Welcome to New York.

Whichever of the new vans is chosen will give passengers more room, better access, and better views—but there will still and forever be those who complain. Namely, one NYC taxi driver, commenting on the Times video on driving the Transit Connect:

I drive a yellow cab in NYC, and although I haven’t yet driven this thing, It seems OK. My only gripe—rear windows don’t open, and this can be a BIG problem when a waisted yuppie or a high on coke Wall st. scum decides to puke. I drive a night shift, and these pleasant moments happen to me about once a week. In a Crown Vic, at least I can scream at them to stick their heads out the window, so that the only thing I have to clean is my rear fender….

There must be a lot of vomiting in cabs in New York. Talking about the Karsan design back in November, New York Magazine commented about its rear-facing seat:

On the one hand, it would make taxi rides more social by sparing one passenger from lonely exile in the front seat. On the other hand, in this new configuration, he or she may throw up on everybody. So it’s kind of a wash.

Would you sit in the rear-facing seat? What if you were drunk?

Well, would you sit in a rear-facing seat in a cab? Why, or why not?


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  1. Where a vehicle is built doesn’t matter, it’s how it was designed. True, I haven’t taken one of these apart, but I can tell you that during my career I’ve torn down and compared more than 400 vehicles, right down to the wrist pins, including everything from a Ferrari Testa Rosa (we put that one back together) do a Yugo. (Our report caused Roger Smith to pronounce that a three-year-old used GM car was a better investment than a new Yugo. All the pictures I see look like unibody chassis with small-diameter wheels/tires, and there’s a reason why those Crown Vics are popular for taxis. NYC eats unibody chassis for lunch. I think any of these cars can probably get by in taxi service for a year or two, but we’ll see what happens in the long run. New Yorkers aren’t any different from other Americans. They’re all very willing to support foreigners and foreign economies to save a few bucks at the expense of their own community. I think what’s good policy for a country like China should be acceptible here. If you want to sell product in China, they tell you “if you want to sell it here you must build it here.” I agree, if you want to sell cars and trucks here, build them here.

  2. You forgot to mention like most articles do, that the Ford Transit Connect is also made in Turkey, which surprises most people or that the Ford Crown Victoria that the fleet owners love, is also not made in the U.S.. It’s made in Canada! Also, the Karsan has a built in electric ramp that can deploy out of both sides of the cab making it easy for the first time for handicapped passengers to use a cab. The same ramp also makes it easy to move baby carriages, bicycles etc. into the cab and it has 60 inches of leg room, vs. the Ford’s 40 inches and as you mentioned it also has a jump seat like the old Checkers, allowing four to ride in the back together. Perhaps the most import thing about the Karsan besides it’s all glass room, is that it was designed from the ground up as a taxi with many unique features for passenger comfort functionality, unlike the others which are nothing more than converted trucks or vans. Karsan knows how to build rugged vehicles since they have for decades built large trucks and buses for many companies including military vehicles, so New York city potholes should present no unusual challenge. Also, there were two public poll’s taken about the new potential candidates and in both the Taxi Limousine and the New York Post, New Yorkers voted overwhelming for the Karsn. The figures weren’t even close. As for buy American, I couldn’t agree more. However Karsan is going to first of all use an American engine and driveline and will buy the majority of components from American suppliers. I wonder by the way, how many Americans realize when they fly somewhere, that half the time they’re flying on an Airbus which is made in Europe. That doesn’t sem to stop them from flying somewhere does it? Do New Yorkers also realize that the subway cars they ride in are manufactured by Kawasaki, a Japanese co. and Bombardier, a Canadian company. Are they now going to protest and stop using subways and start walking everywhere?

    New Yorkers and visitors finally deserve a better purpose built taxi.


  3. Ah Randy, amazing judgments about a car I’m sure you’ve never seen. Everything I read about the Karsan describes a vehicle specifically designed for the rigors of NY streets, and the company makes vans for Peugeot SA, trucks for Renault SA and Hyundai, and buses for Italy’s Bredamenarinibus. The V1 is the only vehicle since the old Checker cab designed specifically as a New York cab; the two others are revamped vans. If you’ve ever ridden in the three cabs I described, you’d know how poorly adapted they are for use as NY taxis. Karsan website:

  4. Ah Travis, I can only guess that you’ve never been to New York. That little cracker box won’t last six months in NYC. What you need for NYC is big bumpers, large diameter tires on steel wheels, and an extremely robust chassis and suspension system. Now add ADA compliance with large door openings, cargo capacity, and a robust drive train that can hold up to taxi use and you sure don’t have that turkey from Turkey. The Ford Transit is a good start if you beef it up a bit.

  5. @ Tyson
    @ Travis
    Guess what, Tyson? The Transit Connect is also made in Turkey, and if you object to a Ford label being on that car, by all means write and tell them so. And Turkey, as you clearly don’t understand, is one of our allies. As I said in the piece, NYC government took its case for green-powered taxis all the way to the Supreme Court but got turned down. So you’re wrong on all counts, my man.

    Right on, Travis, about having the best car win. And yes, it would be cool to see numbers of Karsans cruising NY streets. It is truly our global city.

  6. @ Tyson
    Why not a car from Turkey? From what I’ve read, it looks like a perfect vehicle for a NY cab. Maybe the best car win, regardless of where it is made. Your bigoted comment that they will “simultaneously explode” is much more disturbing than the prospect of a perfectly capable foreign car transporting citizens of the world in the global city that is New York.
    Go Karsan!

  7. I find this very disturbing. Why is the New York even entertaining stocking the city with cabs made outside of the US let alone from turkey!!! They will probably all be set to simultaneously explode in a future event of mass terror. Furthermore why are we not entertaining an all electric model, or at the very least a hybrid?; what a waste of a good opportunity to green up the city.

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