The city’s new hybrid taxis might be greener, but they’re also a lot meaner – giving passengers 34 percent less legroom than the old Ford Crown Victorias.
Eco-friendly cabs are squeezing passengers out of 5 fewer inches of space between the edge of the seat and the back of the partition. And cramped riders are getting uptight.
“The whole city is a big compromise on space,” complains Orrin Zucker, a television and Internet animator who stands 5-foot-6. “Tiny cabs are just the latest pain-in-the-butt sacrifice New Yorkers are forced to make.”
Barry Hanold, 6-foot-3, says the legroom in hybrids is a “common gripe” at the Tall Club of New York City, where he is president. “The newer cabs are almost impossible. I often have to let the hybrids pass by because they’re too small to fit in.”
First introduced in 2005, hybrid cabs such as the Toyota Prius, the Ford Escape and the Chevy Malibu Hybrid now make up 15 percent of the total 13,237 taxis on the city’s streets. These new models offer 9.4 inches of space between the seat’s edge and the partition, compared to 14.2 inches in the Crown Victoria.
As the city offers financial incentives to cabbies who switch to hybrids, complaints from claustrophobic passengers are now reaching a fever pitch.
In 2001, authorities stretched the length of the Crown Victoria’s passenger compartment by 6 inches, partly because riders were crashing into dividers during accidents, says Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade.
With the hybrids, he says, they’re back to square one.
“The city rushed to scrap a comfortable, time-tested taxicab for a car that is inadequate as a taxicab. Period,” says Woloz, who represents 27 yellow-taxi fleets with 3,500 medallion cabs.
The group is lobbying to replace the Crown Victoria with the Ford Transit Connect, a light-duty van slated to hit the market next year. It gets 22 miles per gallon in the city.
A spokesman for the Taxi and Limousine Commission says the agency has received eight complaints about legroom in the past 13 months.
“Some hybrid-taxi passengers are sacrificing a little comfort for the knowledge that they are riding in a clean-air vehicle,” says TLC Commissioner Matthew Daus. “I think everyone realizes, however, that hybrids are the right way to go.”