BOSTON - The City of Boston became the first municipality in America to approve the Ford Transit Connect for taxi use. According to Ford, this paves the way for taxi owners to purchase the new vehicle for their fleets.
"We're very impressed with the Transit Connect," said Mark Cohen, director, Licensing Division, Boston Police Department. "It's the closest thing to a purpose-built vehicle for taxi use that I've seen in 25 years."
Boston, the 10th largest metropolitan area in the United States, regulates which types of vehicles can be used as taxicabs in its city streets. To be approved for taxi use, a vehicle must meet basic size requirements for headroom, legroom and cargo space.
"The size, shape and configuration of the Transit Connect make it comfortable for both driver and passengers," said Cohen. "When the Ford Crown Victoria goes out of production next year the taxi industry here in Boston and throughout the country is going to be looking for alternatives. I think the Transit Connect Taxi fits the bill."
The roomy, flexible interior of the Transit Connect - 2010 North American Truck of the Year - is suited for taxi service. The open architecture provides ample interior headroom and passenger visibility and, with 6.5 inches of ground clearance, passengers step easily through the sliding doors, according to Ford.
With its standard 2.0L four-cylinder gas engine and automatic transmission, the conventionally powered Transit Connect is expected to deliver an estimated 30 percent improvement in fuel economy versus many of today's traditional taxis.
Because taxi operators also asked for a version that runs on alternative fuels, Ford is offering new engine prep packages that allow conversions to both compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied propane gas (LPG).
"The vehicle's cargo area easily accommodates CNG tanks directly behind the second-row seat, still allowing ample luggage storage," said Gerald Koss, Ford fleet marketing manager.
Built on a dedicated commercial vehicle platform tested to meet Ford's light commercial vehicle durability standards, Ford's new Transit Connect Taxi also features a wiring upfit package, vinyl flooring and standard third-row windows - all of which are factory-installed.
"We really tailored the vehicle to provide comfort and convenience for both driver and passengers," said Chief Engineer Rob Stevens.
He and Koss spent a good part of 2009 taking the Transit Connect Taxi concept to taxi owners and operators in major markets across the United States, gaining valuable feedback that helped Ford further refine the taxi.
"We moved the rear seat back three inches, added a grab handle for passengers to get in and out of the vehicle, and we installed a ventilation unit to heat and cool the second row," said Stevens. "We also added vinyl seats, which taxi operators said they wanted because of their durability."