NYC's New Taxicabs
and the Taxi Exhibit
In 2015, nearly 10 years after the Design Trust for Public Space started thinking about a new taxi for NYC, the Taxi and Limousine Commission decreed that all new taxicabs would be the Nissan NV2000 (or a few other hybrid options)! We finally have a taxi worth bragging about.
Equipped with USB ports for charging cell phones (see our proposal for Taxi Offices in 100 Ideas for NY), an enormous skylight giving views of the full majesty of the city, ample leg room even for tall riders, sliding doors that will finally make bicyclists a bit safer in NYC, and an end to the ridiculous handmade barriers between driver and passenger (really, who dreamed up that Frankenstein of functionality?). Early reactions deride the exterior style (not entirely wrong, as it is a bit less than beautiful) but anyone who has ridden in one will soon forget the outside. They are a revelation.
In 2007, as the taxi’s 100th anniversary approached, the Design Trust for Public Space investigated how this New York City icon could be improved. To jump-start the process of rethinking both the taxi system and the vehicle itself, the curators invited the taxi industry, some of the nation’s best designers, and NYC’s taxi regulators to two workshops, held in cooperation with Parsons the New School for Design. The results were displayed in‚ “Designing the Taxi” an exhibition on view at Parsons.
For the exhibition, the we created a mock streetscape, complete with wooden ‘construction fence’, sidewalk and graffiti. Michael Bierut of Pentagram designed the booklet illustrating the various taxi proposals, which appeared as sniped posters on the plywood construction hoarding. The wall also doubled as a display case with niches for monitors and a prototype displayed at eye level, for visitors to peer through the fence (just as construction site often do). Several renderings were affixed to the walls at full-scale, and a mailbox for comment cards and newspaper box for show catalogues were placed on the mock sidewalk. One proposal for a demarcated taxi stand was painted on the floor, or street.
From this modest but extremely well researched and carefully revealed proposal we can trace the beginnings of the new taxi finally approved, and court sanctioned, in September 2015. The Design Trust for Public Space, and then director Deborah Marton, deserve the thanks of the whole city. As the conscience of the city in the public realm, the Design Trust has seeded many vital urban projects, including the High Line, that have the effect of making our world, the world of New York, better and more livable. The effect of the new taxi, one could argue, will be felt by more New Yorkers, visitors (and taxi drivers) than any of the other vital efforts of the Trust, and have already produced a sense of delight and renewed appreciation of New York in at least one rider...me.