Last Wednesday, the Altman building on west 18th Street in Manhattan was home to a General Motors reception for the New York area media. Autoblog was there, and in addition to the array of 2007 products displayed inside the reception hall, there was a vehicle of particular interest parked outside: a brand new Saturn Vue Green Line taxi. In the sea of Crown Vics, Escape Hybrids, and assorted minivans patrolling the streets of the Big Apple, it stands alone as the only Vue Green Line out there picking up fares.
We caught up with the Vue cab's owner, Placida Robinson, who was one of the guests at the reception. She told us that she obtained the medallion at an auction held earlier this year, in which 254 hybrid and 54 handicap accessible vehicle medallions were made available. The medallions fetched record prices -- the average price for each one was in excess of $400,000 -- which probably makes Ms. Robinson's Vue the most expensive one on the road after you add the cost of the medallion to car's purchase price (around $23,000).

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Of course, the Vue had to undergo some modifications of its own before it could hit the streets looking for riders. Like any other medallion taxi, it had to get a fresh coat of yellow paint, and the interior saw familiar modifications, such as new seats covered in a heavy-duty vinyl that's easy to clean and able to handle the wear and tear of steady everyday use. Naturally, it also had a meter and roof light installed.

Ms. Robinson's cab was otherwise trimmed out to the relatively high level of interior specification that's standard on the Vue Green Line. It's a comfortable and capable city driver, thanks to the added boost the electric motor provides at launch, and the Vue's stop/start system should prove beneficial in this application. In New York, traffic comes to a halt with great frequency, so the car's automatic engine stop feature will surely get a heavy workout, helping with the cab's fuel economy and reducing emissions along the way (remember, an engine that's shut off emits nothing).

Unlike other taxis, which are serviced at fleet garages that are set up all over the city, when the Vue needs service, it "goes home to mother" as Ms. Robinson puts it, and visits a New York Saturn dealer. The Vue Green Line was an attractive fit for Ms. Robinson because it met the hybrid requirement, was competitively priced, and offered excellent cargo capacity. She told us that customer reaction has been very positive so far. Riders apparently like the hybrid and have commented that as taxis go, it's one of the nicer ones they've been in.

New York is obviously moving towards a more hybrid-centric taxi fleet over time, In five years when it's time for this Vue to go into mandatory retirement, it'll likely be sharing the streets with other, new hybrid Saturns -- Vues sporting the just-announced two-mode hybrid system, and possibly even the plug-in option that was also announced at the LA Auto Show. For now, though, if you find yourself riding in a Vue Green Line taxi, know that you've found the proverbial needle in a stack of needles, because in a city whose streets are home to thousands of yellow cabs, there's only one of the Saturns in service.

Note: Autoblog recently had the Vue Green Line pass through the Autoblog Garage. Look for our full review later this week over at Autoblog Green.

Saturn Vue Green Line TaxiSaturn Vue Green Line Taxi, Photo by Alex Nunez

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