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To help embattled cabbies, New York drops 'Taxi of the Future' plan

© AFP/File | New York transit officials have decided to let taxi drivers, facing severe competition from Uber and Lyft, to continue driving traditional yellow cabs like this one rather than forcing them to switch to a so-called 'Taxi of Tomorrow'

NEW YORK (AFP) - 

New York City officials have decided to allow taxi drivers, reeling under heavy competition from Uber and Lyft, to continue driving traditional yellow cabs rather than forcing them to switch to a so-called "Taxi of the Future."

In 2011, city officials under then-mayor Michael Bloomberg had selected the modernistic Nissan NV200 model as an eventual replacement for the huge fleet of New York taxis.

The Nissan had many selling points: its comfort, spaciousness, fuel-efficiency, "low-annoyance" horn and see-through roof, as well as its USB ports to allow passengers to charge their smartphones.

But with cab drivers struggling to compete with Uber and Lyft, the city decided to "make things easier" on drivers by offering them more flexibility in their choice of vehicles, Allan Fromberg, spokesman of New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission, said Wednesday.

The shift was announced in a brief note to drivers published June 6 on the commission's website, listing some 30 models, both hybrid and non-hybrid, that cabbies may now choose from.

One clear indicator of the uphill battle facing drivers is the declining value of the "medallions," or permits, required of taxi owners in New York and some other large cities. While a New York medallion could cost close to $1 million as recently as 2013, they can now be had for less than $200,000, a crushing loss in value for many drivers.

But New York's decision may also reflect a certain lack of enthusiasm for the Nissan model.

Though drivers have had the option to buy the "Taxi of Tomorrow" for years now, the boxy Nissans so far account for only 2,671 of the 13,587 yellow cabs on the road.

© 2018 AFP