You could hate Bloomberg for lots of reasons, but he’s been admirably progressive on the environmental front, from building more biking infrastructure to expanding the city’s recycling programs (even composting!). So it’s strange that his Taxi and Limousine Commission has become a gas-guzzling nightmare: the “Taxi of Tomorrow” is a gasoline-powered minivan, which the city wants to make the mandatory vehicle for taxi drivers, the Wall Street Journal reports. While some physicians have supported the change (because of safety features), along with a lobbying group that supports improvements at local airports (???), the plan has met criticism from many others: those who lease taxi medallions, those who drive taxis, and advocates for the disabled. (The new vehicle is supposed to be more easily converted for passengers in wheelchairs, but the one on display at yesterday’s press conference was not, groan!) It has made strange bedfellows, putting Transportation Alternatives and AAA on the same side for once.
Several groups are expected to sue. They also, you know, kinda already did: the medallion leasers won a lawsuit in May against the “Taxi of Tomorrow” plans because municipal law requires the T&LC to approve at least one hybrid vehicle for use as a taxi. Commissioner David Yassky said cab drivers can use a hybrid that includes at least 130 cubic feet of passenger space until a hybrid version of the Nissan minivan becomes available.
But, you know, let’s step back for a second. Why do we need bigger cabs? For that matter, why do we even need cabs at all? I know there are times when cabs can be crucial (like for vulnerable people trying to get home safely late at night or for older people who can’t climb subway stairs) and, don’t get me wrong, I like cab drivers, but often taxis just the playthings of the well-to-do and/or touristy. I know the tourist industry in the city is crucial to our economy, but the way Bloomberg has been altering the infrastructure of the city to accommodate them—and his wealthy pals—is getting out of hand.