Our groundbreaking work reimagined the NYC taxi vehicle and system for the twenty-first century by facilitating innovative new designs for our city's "moveable public space" and creating a 10-year strategic plan for improving the taxi system.
Designing the Taxi redefined the taxi as our city's "moveable public space," recognizing how it dominates our streets, provides a crucial transit link, and impacts the city's environmental quality. The project generated remarkable ideas for transforming the NYC taxi system and vehicle, demonstrating the time was right for real change.
The visionary designs generated through our workshops resulted in a tremendous outpouring of interest from all quarters for improving the NYC taxi, proving that the yellow cab was long overdue for a makeover. But visionary ideas and public interest are not enough to galvanize change in an industry long considered intractable – in fact, both the automotive design writer Robert Cumberford's initiative in 1960 and MoMA's design exhibition The Taxi Project in 1976 had received a flurry of interest and attention at the time but resulted in nothing more.
To move forward, we had to work with the people in charge of the NYC taxi system, the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, as well as the fleet owners, drivers and nation's largest automakers in the process. Which is exactly what we did for the next phase of the project, Taxi 07.
The yellow cab is synonymous with NYC and a ubiquitous presence on our city streets. They provide a crucial transit link, flood our streets with yellow, and capture the imagination of every NYC visitor. More than just cars, New York's taxis form a system whose components include the vehicle itself, patterns of usage, and the public spaces that taxis serve and require.
With the hundredth anniversary of the New York City taxi approaching in 2007, we decided to investigate how to improve this iconic mode of transportation with the ultimate goal of producing a new taxi design in time for the centennial. Although recent years have brought incremental changes in comfort and service, taxis have proved resistant to real innovation.
In order to generate innovative – but feasible –ideas, we held a series of participatory workshops to determine the current state of the taxi system and identify opportunities for improvement. A broad range of taxi stakeholders participated in the workshops – fleet owners, drivers, landscape architects, urban planners, vehicle and industrial designers, graphic artists, medallion holders, representatives of city agencies, civic groups – many of whom had never interacted before. In total, over 50 designers and taxi stakeholders took part in a spirited discussion of all things taxi.
Following the first workshop, the participating designers were invited to produce feasible yet cutting-edge ideas for the taxi vehicle and system, in just three weeks' time. The resulting designs were presented to the public in the second workshop and were then featured in an illustrated publication that described the constraints and possibilities for the New York City taxi system. Our Designing the Taxi publication includes a grab-bag of ideas from the obvious and doable – like a more legible rooflight – to larger and more complex systemic improvements, like a fully electric taxi and a cellphone hailing system. A companion Designing the Taxi exhibit at the Parsons School of Design brought the workshop ideas to life for the general public.
After receiving an inquiry from a private citizen, we decide to explore the idea of rethinking the NYC taxi and system with a series of public programs.
We form a partnership with Parsons The New School for Design and decide to hold two public workshops and a final exhibit to present our findings.
We create a primer on the NYC taxi vehicle and system to distribute to program participants.
Workshop participants – fleet owners, drivers, passengers, designers, planners, and policy experts – discuss trends in taxi design, the taxi’s role as a New York public space, and the ideal taxi and taxi system of the future.
We solicit some of the nation's top designers to rethink the taxi system, vehicle design, and passenger experience.
In this public forum moderated by Kurt Anderson of Studio 360, program participants present their preliminary designs and public space proposals for the taxi vehicle and system.
With the participation of the designers and stakeholders, we develop the findings into an illustrated publication.
We release the project findings as a publication and public exhibit at Parsons, which features a film, a few vehicle models, and a mock-up of a NYC street.
Inspired by the enormous public interest in the project's findings, we decide to launch a second phase called "Taxi 07."
July 19, 2016