Give 'Taxi of Tomorrow' the green light

The Nissan NV200, New York's Taxi of Tomorrow, The Nissan NV200, New York's Taxi of Tomorrow, was unveiled April 3, 2012 Photo Credit: Getty/ STAN HONDA

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The "Taxi of Tomorrow" blasted through a key roadblock this week -- but unfortunately, it still faces another large obstacle. His name is Bill de Blasio.

A state appellate court this week said the cab, officially known as the Nissan NV200, is legal. And the court said the mayor may decree that a uniform fleet of them will ply the streets -- except for hybrids bought earlier, before the NV200 hybrid goes into production.

The problem is, de Blasio appears reluctant to issue that order. And his reasons for opposing the comfortable new ride are vastly unpersuasive. The mayor has said that he doesn't think the process of choosing the cab was done right, that he doesn't think it's wise to pick just one vehicle as the city's official taxi, and that, by the way, he doesn't like Nissan's policy of doing business in Iran.

But there's something he didn't mention -- the more than $200,000 in campaign contributions he accepted last year from yellow-cab fleet owners. Many of them strongly opposed the Taxi of Tomorrow plan when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg rolled it out years ago.

But it has always been a great idea. The goal was to put a standard official cab on the streets that was designed -- first -- for the comfort and safety of riders.

The city worked with Nissan to create a taxi with more legroom, a flat floor, passenger-controlled heating and air conditioning, reading lamps, antimicrobial upholstery and more luggage space. Safety features include sliding doors to prevent injuries as passengers exit and backseat air bags.

And by making the NV200 the official workhorse of the city's 14,000-plus fleet, the city could bring manufacturing costs down and -- maybe -- bring back a level of comfort last seen decades ago when Checker cabs were the norm.

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Yet today just 180 NV200s are in service here.

Meanwhile, despite the court's green light this week, no one at City Hall is ready to hit the gas. The decision may ultimately face a challenge before the state's highest court. And even if the plan prevails there, de Blasio doesn't seem eager to make the NV200 the official model. Taxi riders need an advocate -- but we could wind up stranded again.

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