I think that, by now, everyone reading this column will have heard that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and I this week announced the three leading contenders for the Taxi of Tomorrow project – Karsan, Nissan North America and Ford – and launched a public input campaign. Rather than asking the riding public to vote for a particular vehicle model, we’ve designed an on-line survey to gauge the things that are most and least important to people, so that they may potentially be folded into what in procurement circles is known as a “BAFO – or best and final offer”. It is this “BAFO” that will ultimately lead to our making a final choice.
To take a step back for those who may not be up on this project, let me rehash a bit of history. Several years ago, the TLC put out what’s called a “Request for Information” (RFI) to dip our toe in the water about how we could, for the first time in city history, drive the design and creation of a purpose-built taxicab that is safe, sustainable, accessible, affordable and economical to operate, and comfortable for both driver and passenger alike. While we at the TLC have participated in many visioning exercises over the decades, from those led by designers, architects and urban planners to “draw the taxi of the future” contests in public schools, this would be the first time ever that we’ve put the question “what’s possible?” to those who actually have auto plants and assembly lines to bolster their answer. Using information from the RFIs, we created a “Request For Proposals” (RFP), which is a formal invitation to submit a detailed proposal for the project, the winner of which would become the official provider of New York City taxicabs for at least a decade.
The timetable for the project has the TLC likely choosing a winning proposal by the year’s end, with a contract in place by next spring. If all goes well, the first new taxicabs will be in service by 2013, or 2014 the latest.
So, as mentioned above, we are now at the stage of selecting finalists, but it was a lengthy road to get here. It’s important to note that the project started with a Stakeholders’ Committee made up of both environmental and accessibility advocates, representatives of the riding public and of government, the urban planning community, taxi operators, and yes…….drivers!
I saved this important fact for last because I wanted to leave those reading this column with a few very important thoughts. Firstly, I want those taxi drivers reading this to know that their safety and comfort have been front and center in this process since day one. We understand the difficulties you face each day as a taxi driver, and we want you to be confident that, whatever vehicle is ultimately chosen, one of the criteria that will have led to that decision will be that of driver safety and comfort. When we say “custom built to be a taxi….” We mean custom built for the driver, as it is for the passenger. I think that’s a message that may have been a bit subsumed by the more headline-worthy aspects, and so I wanted to say it here.
Until next month…..take care!