NYC Hybrid Taxis Unfit and Unsafe, Says Report

Discussion in 'Prius, Hybrid, EV and Alt-Fuel News' started by Arroyo, Sep 9, 2008.

  1. Arroyo

    Arroyo Member

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    Here's a release that's been getting lots of press throughout the Internet today (don't shoot the messenger):

    NYC Hybrid Taxis Unfit and Unsafe, Says Report

    Tuesday September 9, 7:00 am ET Taxi Industry Demands Ford, Nissan, GM and Other Automakers Prove Crashworthiness of Hybrid Taxis Danger to Public Safety Cited in Lawsuit Against City

    NEW YORK, Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report by a well-known automotive engineer, who previously consulted for the City of New York and several major automakers, exposes the risks and dangers of riding in New York City's hybrid yellow taxicabs. The report is the result of several months of analysis and concludes that hybrid taxis are unsafe and incompatible with the rigorous demands of New York City taxicabs that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hybrids will start to replace the stretch Ford Crown Victoria, a purpose-built taxi, and other taxis on October 1, 2008 if a City mandate requiring that all new taxis have a minimum city rating of 25 mpg is not halted. Citing public endangerment, the city's largest taxi advocacy group urged a federal court on Monday to intervene.

    According to the report's author, C. Bruce Gambardella, P.E., "from an engineering standpoint, vehicles have to be designed for the duty cycle they are likely to encounter and cannot feature modifications that will compromise their safety systems." Hybrids strike out on both counts, over and over again in virtually every category analyzed in the 43-page report.
    The report concludes that 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 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.

    Mr. Gambardella, who is the first engineer in the country to analyze and compare safety in both hybrid and conventional taxicabs in New York City, argues that "due to the mandatory vehicle modifications, the TLC has, in effect, created its own vehicle design" and "as such, the TLC has an obligation to crash-test the modified vehicles or require that the automakers crash-test the vehicles as modified." He writes, "it is completely unknown whether these modified cars would pass federal crash tests." He also opined: "No automaker would put such an inadequately tested vehicle on the road, nor should the public or any federal regulatory agency stand for it."

    Furthermore, the report asserts that the TLC either failed to read, or blatantly ignored, explicit warnings in all hybrid vehicle owners' manuals that expressly forbid modifications like partitions that could interfere with airbag deployment and other aspects of the safety systems. The report cites more than 75 separate manufacturers' warnings in 5 different hybrids authorized for taxi use by the TLC.

    Mr. Gambardella calls the Crown Victoria the safest taxicab on the road. He cites its 25 years of experience as a taxi (6 years as a stretch model) and stresses that they are purpose-built for the police and taxi markets, anticipate partition installations and are built for heavy-duty 24/7 usage. (Fleet taxis average 85,000 - 100,000 miles per year.) In contrast, hybrids are designed for non-commercial, private use where the average driver clocks well under 20,000 miles per year. Hybrid taxis have little experience as 24/7 taxis.

    The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade ("MTBOT"), the fleet trade association that commissioned the report out of concern for passenger and driver safety, instructed its attorneys at Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff and Abady LLP to send the report's key findings to several hybrid automakers. In a letter, the firm requests explicit automaker certification and supporting documentation demonstrating that hybrid taxis, outfitted with partitions, are safe for commercial taxi use in New York City. The TLC was also provided with the letter and key findings. MTBOT has received no responses to date.

    Ron Sherman, President of MTBOT, stated, "The City's dangerously aggressive hybrid taxi mandate presents a public danger to our 240 million annual passengers and tens of thousands of taxi drivers, as this report makes clear. MTBOT has desperately tried to work with the TLC and the Bloomberg Administration on a taxi policy that improves the environment without compromising public safety, but to no avail. We were left with no choice but to seek the court's intervention to prevent the City from making a tragic mistake."

    On Monday, September 8, 2008, MTBOT and other parties concerned that passenger and driver safety was being compromised, filed a complaint in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, urging an immediate halt to the mandate. The lawsuit, which maintains that the City's mandate will cause irreparable harm to taxi passengers and drivers, argues, that the City's decision to mandate that all new taxis, as of October 1, 2008, have a city rating of 25 mpg or more is arbitrary and capricious because the City failed to follow its own long-standing procedures requiring safety testing and a pilot program prior to the mandate of new vehicles. The lawsuit also argues that the City's mandate is preempted by the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act as well as the federal Clean Air Act. The suit asks for the October 1st mandate to be annulled. Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff and Abady, LLP represents the plaintiffs.

    MTBOT and the report's author C. Bruce Gambardella, P.E. plan to testify at the New York City Council Transportation Committee's oversight hearing, "Green Taxis: Are They Safe" on Wednesday, September 10th at 1 pm in City Hall. This is the Committee's second oversight hearing. The TLC refused to testify at the Council's June 3 2008 hearing, leaving many safety questions unanswered.

    MTBOT is the country's largest taxi fleet association. It represents 27 yellow medallion taxi fleets in New York City and over 3,500 medallion taxicabs - approximately 25% of the taxi industry. MTBOT members have operated more than 30 different vehicles over several decades including minivans, Compressed Natural Gas vehicles and hybrids. MTBOT advocates on behalf of its members, its 14,000 drivers and the riding public.
    C. Bruce Gambardella is a licensed Professional Engineer in New York, Michigan and Connecticut and has worked as an accident reconstruction expert full time since 1982. Clients have included the City of New York, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, NYC Transit Authority, the New York Attorney General's Office and numerous major insurance companies and private attorneys. He has inspected more than 3,000 vehicles and performed more than 1,300 detailed accident reconstructions.
     
  2. bbald123

    bbald123 Thermodynamics Law Enforcement

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    This report could just have easily looked at the Corolla and come to the same conclusion.

    It's not the Prius' hybridness, it's the relative lightweight construction. (Relative to a Crown Vic for instance).
     
  3. mingoglia

    mingoglia Member

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    I've often thought the same thing about heavy duty use such as taxi use. The taxi company in Canada hasn't reported such issues, but I could definitely see how more care should be given to a Prius than a Crown Vic. I believe many of the old school American cars are over built, although under-engineered compared to many Japanese models. Building more beef, can compensate for lack of engineering. This overbeef can also compensate for slamming into curbs (which a rear wheel drive car in general can handle better), overloading, etc. I believe the Prius in the hands of the average person will certainly out live a Crown Vic in normal driving... but in more careless driving, the Prius seems to be a lot more fragile.

    Let me restate this in a separate way. An American car's electronics and some other components will fail long before their heavy duty suspensions, body's etc. These components aren't really affected much by slamming into curbs, etc. Japanese cars are the opposite. Their electronics, engines, tranny's, etc will last much much longer but all the other components will start failing such as week driveline components, weak suspension systems, etc.
     
  4. Celtic Blue

    Celtic Blue New Member

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    The report makes a valid point about partitions...in cities where partitions are required. (I don't ride in many taxis and don't recall any that had partitions, but I don't go to NYC either.)

    Despite the sensational headlines the report fails to deliver on the other aspects. If the author loves the crown vic so much he might do better by castigating Ford for not designing a hybrid version (or other variant) that can get 25+ mpg.
     
  5. SageBrush

    SageBrush Senior Member

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    This is a hack job. Were the modified Crown Vics put through crash testing ?
    Why won't a Crown Vic with side airbags fall under the same criticism as an airbagged hybrid ?

    This is just an attempt to strangle hybrid regulation by slow death in committee.

    Mingoglia, I don't know how much the dollar analysis of hybrids will suffer do to typical nyc driver conduct, but the changeover is to cut pollution, not to save the driver money. Moreover, I say just change the system over to how Vancouver has it: the driver pays for the car and fuel, instead of the cabbie only paying for fuel. Any complaints of the upfront costs are easily deflected by spreading the cost of the cabbie license out over a couple of years. When the cabbie owns the car, he won't feel obliged to run roughshod over curbs.
     
  6. David Beale

    David Beale Senior Member

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    It's total BS! Heavy cars do seem to be more resistant to crushing the passengers in a collision, unless you consider a collision with an immovable object, such as a bridge abutment. Then their "better construction" works against them big time. More mass means a lot more energy to crush them.

    I wonder how much the oil companies and the taxi companies are paying the guy to come to this conclusion? The taxi companies are very cheap, and don't want to buy new cars. The oil companies have already been caught paying people to fight hybrids.
     
  7. paprius4030

    paprius4030 My first Prius

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    Modified Crown Vic's...Give me a break. Most of the yellow Crown Vic's are just repainted PA. State poilice cars from the looks of the people that were snapping them up at the last Pa. auction. This guy sounds like some disgruntled person who lost his phoney baloney consulating job with NY.
     
  8. SomervillePrius

    SomervillePrius New Member

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    An alternative would also be the hybrid camry that is a larger car not to far being the vic
     
  9. DaveinOlyWA

    DaveinOlyWA 3rd Time was Solariffic!!

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    so one would expect the manufacturer of the crown vic to just roll over and take up it the wahzoo??

    expected an article along these lines months ago.....having waited this long before publishing means they dont have facts to back up the claims...if they had, it would have been presented much much earlier...

    they only waited until the last second (or in this case last 30 days) in hopes of delaying the inevitable by getting a temporary stay order...which does nothing really but cost someone extra money to run studies, delays the implementation of a vehicle that will save us gas, etc...

    just another waste of time
     
  10. PriusSport

    PriusSport senior member

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    soiunds like Right Wing conspiracy. Don't laugh.
     
  11. Jack66

    Jack66 Kinda Jovial Member

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    I think the author had some interesting points, but they were offeset by the fact that the article was so one-sided against anything other than the Victoria. Looking at both sides would have given his arguments more weight.
     
  12. usbseawolf2000

    usbseawolf2000 HSD PhD

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    But... the speed limit in Manhattan is 25 MPH or lower if posted.
     
  13. usbseawolf2000

    usbseawolf2000 HSD PhD

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    I don't even think many of them are equipped with side airbags.... too old.
     
  14. FL_Prius_Driver

    FL_Prius_Driver Senior Member

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    Bullseye. According to this article, NYC citizens should not be riding GM hybrid busses.
     
  15. robbyr2

    robbyr2 New Member

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    We have several Prius cabs here in the Denver area. In the run-up to the DNC week before last, there was a mention of them on local TV. The company says they have worked out fine.

    And there are other posts on PC about Prius taxis with hundreds of thousands of miles of good service.

    But of course, we don't need a divider between cabbie and passenger yet.
     
  16. SageBrush

    SageBrush Senior Member

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    Indeed, but the article did not try to prevent new Crown Vics from being taxis.

    An article that showed data demonstrating a problem between side airbags and current partitions would deserve to be taken seriously, and we could talk about either removing the side airbags or modifying the partition ...

    For ALL taxis affected, regardless of hybridness or age.

    In a non-hack job form, this is a call to engineer a smart partition.
     
  17. hampdenwireless

    hampdenwireless Active Member

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    That would be Ford and they are discontinuing the Crown Vic anyhow and the car used most as its replacement is the Ford Escape so they are not complaining. Its the taxi companies due to the cost of the switch that are complaining. Funny, it will save them money in the long term.
     
  18. Enorris

    Enorris Junior Member

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    If the NYC taxis actually learned how to drive they they wouldn't have the problems. The Typical Taxi driver is harder on cars then I was when I was 16. They gun the car off the line and continue to accelerate until they have to slam on there brakes. I wonder what type of milage the PRIUS taxis are getting in NYC. If the Taxis just drove less aggressively they would double the milage they would get.
     
  19. JimN

    JimN Let the games begin!

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    This is all politics. The only difference is that this time the shoe is on the other foot. The City dictates which vehicles can be taxis. For ages only the Checker Marathon could be a taxi. Someone lobbied (guess who) that other vehicles should be allowed and that all "old" taxis need to pass "safety" inspections. "Old" taxis also presented an image poblem for the City. New Fords replaced Checkers because the new cars didn't need inspections and Ford could build a car cheaper than Marathon who only had one customer base. Now Ford is doing what it can to protect this market from competition because they know that given a choice their vehicles will disappear from the fleet within a few years. If Ford could slap a blue oval on a Prius this wouldn't be an issue.

    BTW there is a posted 35mph speed limit on 10th Ave which is a main artery feeding the Lincoln Tunnel.
     
  20. SageBrush

    SageBrush Senior Member

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    I'm not positive about NYC, but in most US cities the fleet owner buy the cars and maintain them, but the cabbie foots the fuel bill. In Vancouver the cabbie buys both car and fuel. The Prius has become the taxi of choice there.

    So I agree that Ford is unlikey the key player here (although they like the publicity, and likely support the machinations going on). This smells of fleet owner self interest.
     
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