I have often found that decisions made at the top of any organization, often punitively affect others who usually have better than average ideas - if they were only asked. Hence – I have an opinion on the state of affairs as it concerns NYC's new “Taxi of Tomorrow” – the Nissan Whatever Thingie. In a city filled with so many people that hack and saw through bone and skin to look good, the first thing that comes to mind when I see a picture of the new taxi is it is UGLY.
Dang….it’s like they glued a 1984 Lee Iacocca Caravan to the back of a rich kid’s golf cart. Sure, perhaps it’s functional for a passenger and caters to the whole ‘oh look at the tall buildings’ crowd (like moi!), but really now, when you get done cutting the crap…. it is just a TAXI, so what is with all the to do and bureaucratic micromanaging of forced ownership. I've mentioned it elsewhere before, but according to statistics I’ve read, the average fare in NYC is approximately 2.7 miles. Who rides in a car for 2 miles with their eyes glued through a rooftop window (that will never get cleaned)? I can only guess, but to me....people get in….people get out; unless you're a *really* interesting character, the vehicle and the driver are forgotten about the minute the door closes. The sucking black hole that is Times Square or a business meeting draws peoples’ energies to the next thing, as soon to be 13,000 identical yellow abominations roar by. Although, I have to be careful with that statement, because prior to my ever spending as much time as I do in NYC, a taxi ride really can be an unforgettable experience for a tourist - and it sounds hokey, but a taxi ride really is a 'must do' when in New York for short term visitors. Of course I like them all the time, but HELLO>>>>I'm sort of a taxi nut in case you hadn't noticed. My first one was in the 70's in a Plymouth Fury and it was a wild ride. But in general theory, for everyone else....it's just a ride. My brother has been working in Manhattan forever, and has never taken a cab - but that is because he is cheap cheap cheap; his personal vehicle has ROLL UP windows!
Most people would not realize this, but the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission have had restrictions and requirements for years on what kind of car a medallion owner is authorized to operate and use in NYC. Most of it has not made much sense to me, but what DOES make sense, is if a person is going to shell out $1,000,000 for the privilege to operate a taxi in NYC, they should be able to decide what kind of car they can use. For instance, at present, a medallion owner can operate the "Barnum and Bailey Clown Car of Tomorrow", that is....a Prius, or they can even choose to drive the last of the soon to be extinct V8 Crown Victoria’s, but they can’t have a mid-sized Chevy Impala. They can have a Malibu, but still no Impala. It doesn't even make a lick of sense. Impala’s are sold as fleet cars – they come in heavy duty packages for police work – they are good on gas, reliable, parts are plentiful, they ride great and are far roomier than a Prius. So…I would imagine a medallion owner would be within their right to question the integrity of thoughts that went into making the decision to just buy ONE particular vehicle, or what the real backdoor story is on how this has even become a reality. I'm no doomsayer, but, well.....someone is making a coin off this - and it isn't for noble "green" reasons either. It just seems weird is all.
Now, I think it is neat that a lot of time has been spent by engineers at Nissan in placing great emphasis on passenger comfort and safety, but let’s be honest, it’s not like they didn’t have an $incentive$. In it's recent unveiling, they brag about the little things they have refined, like the hump in the middle of the car where your feet go is gone.....but, well…of course it is gone...it is a van - no real breakthrough there! But this then begs the question: have we as a society become SO inconvenienced to move our bodies or take the 1.2 seconds it takes to lift our legs over the hump while sitting down that an entire industry has had to change and acquiesce to our pampered needs? It just seems…..excessive. Other super things in these cabs are iphone chargers or what not. I give it ONE night in the village until some person shoves gum in it. If I was a medallion owner and an owner operator, I would be unhappy to be mandated to buy a particular brand of vehicle - especially when other cities are free to do as they please in terms of transportation choices. In addition, I wouldn't be pleased to be forced to buy a vehicle that generally accumulates between 300 and 400 thousand miles during a service life that hasn't even been *really* tested. People are territorial about vehicles – they define a person and often there is brand loyalty involved. Relationships are forged between owners and mechanics and dealerships. With these new taxi’s, not only are the vehicles expensive, but once those taxi’s come rolling out of the factory, I would bet dollar to donuts parts for prices will be through the roof (after all...it IS made of glass) and customer support will be spotty at best, simply because it is pretty much only New York City medallion owners that will be buying them. Will the TLC pay all the sledgehammer mechanics to receive training/certifications for them, or will they all go to a Nissan garage for repair? Will the partition companies jack their prices since they will know medallion owners will have to pay the price? How long will it take to buy a fender for one of these when it gets crinkled? In any event...all this stuff costs money, and just who do you think will be paying for these inflated costs in the long run? Passengers. Hack owners will increase lease rates….drivers will be forced to pay and hence, be making even less money than what they make now – and they will justifiably bark and scream for rate increases, which will in due time eventually happen – especially with gas nearing $4.50 a gallon in NYC. I know it’s a tough concept to consider, but the man or woman who is required to take our gumptions with a smile on their face with a full breakdown of their personal identity for us to gawk at on the partition have a life and bills to pay too. I know what you're thinking........you're saying to yourself....Hey Mike.......
Okay fine.....moving on *puts cat cradle back in soap box*. Now....as a person who doesn’t work in an office setting, but rather relies on a car that serves as an office, I can attest that it is important for a driver to have some input in what it is they purchase and/or drive. My department gives us a choice in what to use, based on our work needs and our physical properties. Essentially, the TLC requiring medallion owners to buy these vehicles is akin to someone making an office worker buy a certain office chair to sit in all day. It may kill your back, or you may be too big or small for it, but…..sorry…..its ‘required’ seating and it would make the customers so much happier to know you're their SERVANTS – lol. New York City Taxi’s will always have customers….you could drive a moon buggy and someone is going to hail it. While it is important to think about passengers, I personally think it is even more important to think about drivers. I don’t know about anyone else, but I WANT a driver who actually envisions their occupation as being exactly what it is; a profession. I want someone who has been carousing the city’s streets for years; who knows the lay of the land; who is honest and takes pride in his/her work. If you really think about it, for far too long cab drivers have been unfairly demonized by the world's xenophobes – and since the late 80’s, have been repugnantly lumped and categorized into being uneducated, non English speaking societal castoffs. This is unfortunate, as it simply isn’t true - not by a long shot. Like any occupation, there are wayward sons carrying on and I have certainly had my share of crappy and rude drivers, but come on - they are not cast members at Walt Disney World - how many smiles does one have to give to make a five dollar fare?! Now, take a hack that has been driving in relative comfort the past 20 years in a vehicle he/she likes and then force them into something they don’t like for 12 hours a day…? Well….customer service…..oh how I will miss you. Hacks will be driving through Times Square chucking stuff at the 'customers' as they laugh away the day with families in the pedestrian walkways.
But hey who am I? I can’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the industry anymore than I know why hipsters from Minnesota now living in their 8’ by 8’ apartments in Brooklyn think Buddy Holly rimmed glasses look good. Perhaps my dog and pony show blog is akin to a hotel doorman writing a blog about the unfairness of declining milk prices for farmers. I think the long and short of it for me, is the vans are just ugly. New York obviously panders to tourism and consumerism, so to me....my opinion counts. It is a place where image is everything….from those Buddy Holly glasses suddenly becoming trendy again to sporting purple plaid like Herb from the old TV show WKRP in Cincinnati would wear; it is a place where ‘iconic’ takes on a whole new meaning. NYC Taxi’s, whether you like them or not, ARE New York. How often do you see a picture of Times Square without 30 of them lined up? With these new vans, it is going to look like 30 DHL delivery vans lined up; so standardized and dull with a twist of made not here, and assembled not here.
In closing, whether or not these Nissan's are right or wrong for New York or whether they are sharp or ugly is really a matter of personal opinion - and obviously, judging by some of the bed sheets I see women wrapping themselves in walking through the fashion district...well....lets just say opinions on what looks good and what doesn't vary GREATLY. Perhaps in five years I'll just get used to them and end up buying one when it's all old and decrepit....after all....it IS a NYC Taxi....*gleam sparkles from glistening gleeful eye*. I just think it is wrong to make individuals buy certain products. I wouldn’t expect musicians in New York be forced to buy a certain trumpet or for drunken panhandlers be required to buy Becks vs. Schlitz. There are so many decent vehicles in which to choose from for medallion owners to buy that are good for New York, it’s passengers, it’s drivers and themselves, so – let them be the ones to choose. Occupy Nissan! (kidding)
This section of the site is not specific to my taxi travels. They are not really rants either. It is more of a space for me to simply raise awareness to topics that either inspire or frustrate me as an individual.