London Taxis in San Francisco
London cabs graced the streets of San Francisco between 2004 and 2006. Here is an introduction to the vehicle from a cab driver's point of view.
The 2003 TX2 London taxi, shown below parked on a steep hill, is a large car weighing over 4000 pounds. It's powered by a smokeless 4-cylinder Ford turbo-diesel engine. This particular cab gets 17-20 miles per gallon in San Francisco city driving.
Note how far the front wheel is turned. London taxis are famous for their tight turning radius, about 25 feet. Note also the "wrap ad" on this vehicle in place of the usual cab company colors. The next photo shows a London cab side-by-side with a standard American taxi at the Luxor Cab garage.
The photos below show views of the driver's compartment. The built-in partition is visible. The material is attack- resistant, but not bullet-resistant. As of this writing in December 2004, NYC firm Taxicab Partitions is developing a bullet-resistant model for London cabs used in the US.
Note that this cab has a wide-angle security camera installed. It is visible in the upper left of the image. Its field of view includes the entire passenger compartment.
In the next photo, note that there is no passenger seat on the right side. Five passengers can sit in back, while the space in front is available for luggage and for the driver's belongings. The driver's seat is the upright type used in trucks, and has five adjustment controls.
The next photo offers a view of the passenger compartment. There are two fold-down seats mounted on the passenger side of the partition, reminiscent of similar seats in the Checker Cabs of yesteryear.
The night driver (above) takes a moment to demonstrate the fold-down seat. Note the high-visibility hand grasps, the high roof and the door open wide to 90-degrees. The floor is flat, and has a ramp for wheelchair access. In this photo the ramp is folded flush with the floor.
Below, a passenger makes use of the London cab's accessibility features. The most frequent usage is with the ramp folded down and resting on a curb as in this photo.
When a curb is not available, the ramp by itself is too steep, so an extension is added.
Alternately, the extension piece (usually stowed in the trunk) can be used a step. It slides under the body of the cab. Both the ramp and the step are lightweight and easy for the driver to use. In my own work, one or the other device is used for a passenger several times during the course of a typical work shift. Drivers who don't bother with the ramp will find that their older customers complain about the high step up into the cab.
Below, a pair of San Francisco taxi managers discuss the pluses and minuses of London cabs. The colorful wrap ads are a key part of the financing of these $50,000+ vehicles. Advertisers love the eye-catching cabs and pay well for wraps ads, which make the bottom line a lot more interesting for cab operators.
For more information, see: London Taxis North America.
Article by Charles Rathbone, December 2004
To read an account from when London cabs were not yet available in the US, see my previous article titled A Ride Through Northern California in a TX1 London Cab.
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