Hybrid Taxis in New York City Get Challenged on Safety Concerns

prius taxi nyc photo

photo: Dino Abatzidis

Recently we heard that Boston has mandated that by 2015 its entire taxi fleet convert to hybrid vehicles. At the time I framed that in the context of New York City beginning to do the same thing and the rather predictable protests from taxi owners on the grounds of cost, both when the NYC program began and now in Boston.

Well, in New York the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade has made another attempt to halt the hybrid roll-out, filing a lawsuit to do so, this time on the grounds that hybrids aren't as safe as the widely used Crown Victorias. In a press release the MTBOT said that the report which it commissioned to look into the safety of hybrid taxis reached the following conclusion:Partitions Could Increase Risk, Report Claims

...hybrids are not designed to hold partitions, which are mandated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission ("TLC") to prevent drivers from being assaulted, robbed or killed. Partitions in hybrid taxis were found to compromise their safety systems by blocking side-curtain airbags from deploying; become easily dislodged in accidents; restrict drivers from safely distancing themselves from front airbags; and diminish backseat legroom so severely -- as much as 10 inches less than in a stretch Ford Crown Victoria -- that even belted passengers will hit their faces on the hard unyielding surface of the partitions in an accident. Mr. Gambardella [TH note: the "well-known automotive engineer" who authored the study] took particular issue with the "L-shaped" partition, which features sharp edges, presents a dangerously confined driver space and places passengers at great risk for injury.

Safety Certainly An Issue, But...

While I have the utmost concern for the safety of taxi passengers, counting myself among them, considering past opposition to the hybrid taxi conversion on grounds of cost, and then availability of new vehicles, my instinct says that this is as much a concern about switching from business as usual practices as it is about vehicle safety. Particularly when no hybrid taxi I've been in actually has a partition installed...

...Is No Excuse to Continue Using Fuel Inefficient Vehicles
If Mr Gambardella's findings are accurate (not being an engineer I admit I cannot dispute them on the merits, and no one should construe the quotes around his qualifications as questioning them...) then we must address the safety issue, but we simply cannot afford from environmental grounds to continue to have a taxi fleet consisting of vehicles which get the pathetically poor gas mileage as the Crown Vic.

via :: Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Taxis
Boston Taxi Fleet to be All Hybrid by 2015
10,000 "Black Car" Taxis to Go Hybrid in New York City
Hybrid Taxis in New York - If They Make It There, They'll Make it Anywhere

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