Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Paul Steely White and I’m the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives . I’m here to testify in favor of the newly designed NV200 as the Taxi of Tomorrow.
Transportation Alternatives (T.A.) supports the new taxi design as a way to improve traffic safety, particularly for people who walk and ride bicycles because they are among the most vulnerable people on New York City streets. We are pro-safety and believe that many of the design components proposed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) offer positive safety improvements compared to New York City’s current taxis.
There are three main improvements that I’d like to highlight today: sliding doors that protect people on bikes from “dooring,” rear lights to indicate exiting passengers and hybrid requirements that will reduce emissions, improve public health and combat climate change.
Why Taxis Matter
Taxicabs are part of the public transportation network in New York City. Most New Yorkers do not own cars, and the city’s For Hire Vehicles enable us to live car-free. In fact, more than 600,000 people travel in the city’s yellow cabs every day. In the most congested parts of the city, taxicabs also set the pace for safe and lawful driving on New York City streets.
As our streets change to improve safety and make more efficient use of the city’s finite amount of space, taxicabs need to be designed to ensure that passengers, drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians have the safest possible travel experience. The Taxi and Limousine Commission should set a goal of eliminating taxi and For Hire Vehicle-related traffic deaths.
Key Safety Improvements
Transportation Alternatives applauds the TLC for emphasizing safety, public health and environmental improvements in the Taxi of Tomorrow. These changes offer the opportunity to greatly improve the safety of taxis, creating a safer environment on all of our city streets.
The proposed Nissan NV200 design makes several critical improvements that will enhance safety:
• Sliding Doors: For over fifteen years, T.A. has worked to raise awareness of “dooring,” when someone riding a bike is hit by an opening car door. This is one of the most common causes of bicycle crashes; for instance, a 2010 Manhattan Borough President survey of 11 Manhattan bike lanes during rush hours documented 77 incidents over just two days . Since taxis make frequent stops with frequent passenger pick-ups and drop-offs, they are particularly problematic for bike riders. The new taxi design includes sliding doors to prevent collisions with bicyclists and other vehicles. While the city has undertaken anti-dooring education campaigns in the past, sliding doors are probably the best preventative measure to reduce the risk of dooring-related injuries and fatalities.
• Exit Lights: The new taxi design proposal also includes rear external lights to indicate when a passenger is exiting. These lights alert people on bikes and other approaching traffic when someone is disembarking from a cab. This will create a safer, more predictable environment for bicyclists, taxi drivers and taxi passengers, and will also help reduce conflicts between cabs and people riding bikes.
• Hybrid and Electric Taxis: Under this proposal, all new taxicabs in the city will be hybrids by the year 2014 and fully electric vehicles will be added in the future. Leading up to this, Nissan is supplying electric taxis as part of a pilot program and has been installing fast-chargers in the city. Transitioning taxis into hybrid and electric vehicles will significantly reduce the amount of pollution produced by cars. Air pollution poses a public health threat to New Yorkers and is a particular problem for the young and old because it can exacerbate respiratory illnesses. Furthermore, switching to electric powered vehicles has the potential to help combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By changing our taxis to cleaner vehicles, we’ll be making a positive investment in our health and the future of New York.
Looking forward, Transportation Alternatives hopes that TLC will continue to embrace safety measures in yellow taxis, liveries and black cabs, including the future adoption of:
• Speed Governors: Technology changes to taxis to help reduce speeding can have wide-reaching impacts. The taxis on New York City streets set the pace for other vehicles and for the standard of driver behavior. Limiting taxi driver speed has the potential to reduce the speeding of other drivers as well.
• Speeding Indicators: Drivers’ speeds may be reduced by having lights installed on the dashboard or on the outside of the car that indicate when the driver is over the 30 mph New York City speed limit.
• Black Boxes: Technology that provides information on crash data is extremely valuable to better understand crashes and can help prevent similar crashes in the future.
• Goal of Zero Deaths and Serious Injuries: Traffic-related injuries and deaths are preventable, and we look forward to a city where no one dies in traffic – ever. T.A.’s Vision Zero calls upon TLC to set a goal of zero deaths or serious injuries from traffic as a component of a larger city-wide goal.
New York City’s 13,000+ taxis and liveries provide an invaluable public service and they set the pace for other drivers on the road. This new design will enhance New Yorkers’ safety, whether they drive a taxicab, ride in one, walk, bike or drive their own vehicle: sliding doors and exit lights will help prevent bicyclists from being hit by car doors and exiting passengers, and the transition to electric vehicles will reduce air pollution, improve public health and combat climate change.
Transportation Alternatives applauds the work of TLC for leading the way towards safer streets. We hope the board of Commissioners will vote to approve the proposal and will continue pushing for safety in the future.