By  on June 24, 2005

NEW YORK — For many, a ride in a New York City taxi can be memorable, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Now a handful of design firms are vying for the chance to scrub away those memories with some new concepts.

By the time of its 100th birthday in 2007, the New York City taxi might, with some luck, look considerably better. Glass roofs for skyscraper sightseeing, futuristic yellow benches from which to hail cabs and vivid signals to indicate a passenger exiting are some of the proposals. About a dozen design firms showed off sketches and booted up PowerPoint presentations for "Designing the Taxi," a workshop assembled this month by the Design Trust for Public Space and Parsons School of Design. An exhibition about the proposals will be at Parsons this fall.

The aim is to get the city's Taxi & Limousine Commission to implement some features for the centennial. As one workshop presenter, Tucker Viemester, president of Springtime USA, said, "There are a lot of good ideas all over the place. Everyone should look at this as a quick stab of what people could do."

Here, a snapshot of some of the proposals.

The Company: Pentagram
The Pitch: The New Checker is a bio-diesel/electric hybrid car with large sliding doors for easy entry, an ergonomically designed "cockpit" to reduce driver stress and fatigue, an individual ventilation and cooling system, and wider windows for a better view.
The Payoff: Wheelchair-accessible, more comfortable seating, extra storage space and ideally a more pleasant ride. To boost the New Checker as a brand, the yellow-and-black checkered design will be used for other products such as T-shirts and a CD compiled of taxi drivers' favorite tunes.

The Company: Imagination
The Pitch: Riders use "Hailstone," a cashless payment-loyalty card for taxi transactions. With a swipe of the card, passengers can earn reward miles for the distance covered and/or pay for the fare like one uses a prepaid phone card.
The Payoff: With an incentive program, New Yorkers would be more inclined to take a cab than to walk or take the bus or subway. Taking cabs to certain neighborhoods at designated times will result in double points and will help bring cabs to areas where they are needed — rides to Times Square around 10:30 p.m. will help the post-theater crowd. Drivers find fares faster and leasing companies earn revenues through unused portions of prepaid cards.

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