Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ford Transit Connect Taxis Hit the Big Apple

STONEHAM, Mass. – More than 400 Ford Transit Connect Taxis are headed for the streets of New York City after donning the iconic “NYC Taxi” label and yellow and black body paint. As a variant of the Transit Connect light-commercial vehicle available at Ford dealerships, the new taxis have already begun to see use in the Big Apple after gaining approval from the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission this summer. 
National orders for the Ford Transit Connect Taxi are quickly approaching 1,000, an impressive number given that the new taxi market averages about 6,000 vehicles annually in the United States. Fleet operators are attracted to the Transit Connect’s versatile design and clean-running powertrains, which include electric, compressed natural gas, liquefied propane gas and conventional gasoline units. 
“It didn’t take long for small business owners, whether they are taxi companies, delivery services or repair shops, to figure out that the Transit Connect is the right vehicle for the times,” said Alan Melkonian, owner and general manager of Massachusetts Ford dealership Stoneham Ford. “It has great cargo-carrying capacity, a number of efficient drivetrains that save money over the life of the vehicle and the reliability needed for heavy use day-in and day-out.”
The standard engine in the Transit Connect Taxi is a 2.0-liter gasoline-powered unit that produces 136 horsepower and nets an EPA-estimated 27 mpg on the highway, about 30 percent better than conventional taxis. However, the Los Angeles Times has reported that Yellow Cab of Anaheim, California has ordered 69 Transit Connect Taxis equipped to run on compressed natural gas, a move that has the two-fold effect of reducing emissions and lowering running costs. In Orange Country, California, the per-gallon equivalent of compressed natural gas is nearly $2 cheaper than that of gasoline, netting operators instant gains. 
While its drivetrains save money, the Transit Connect’s shape makes it a real workhorse, whether hauling people or plumbing supplies. The high roof means there is a lot of space for occupants and their luggage, and they can bring as much onboard as they want with the vehicle’s 1,600-pound maximum payload. The 50.2-inch wide and 52.1-inch high rear doors on each side of the vehicle make getting in and out easy, even for the elderly. 
Thus far, the Transit Connect Taxi has been approved by governing agencies in Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston, three cities with strict requirements for taxis. It has also been approved for use at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., as well as the San Francisco International Airport. 
“A purpose-built vehicle is always going to do the job better than one that has been converted from a normal everyday vehicle, especially one that has the durability for harsh winters like we have here in New England,” Melkonian noted. “The Transit Connect was designed to carry people and goods from the get-go, so it comes as no surprise that it’s better at being a taxi than a car that has simply been painted yellow.”