At the New York auto show, Ford displayed a concept Transit Connect taxi, noting it brings architecture's trend of building upward where land is scarce, to the vehicles on the streets. It was replete with a horizontal status box that showed orange on all four sides if occupied and green if available; looking though the windows would answer the same question.

Ford claimed the 2.0-liter/four-speed auto combo delivers a "more than 30-percent improvement in fuel economy and nearly 90-percent-lower tailpipe emissions than many of today's traditional taxis," many of which are Crown Victorias. With the Crown Vic now on police duty and only the Grand Marquis offered for civilian use, we had to use the latter for comparison, and indeed the Transit rates 19/24 mpg versus the 2008 Marquis' 15/23, both with four-speed automatics. A Duratorq diesel would undoubtedly do better puttering around Manhattan.

Even without a mileage gain, the Connect could help air quality and gridlock in Manhattan because it's more than a foot-and-a-half shorter than the same-passenger-load Crown Vic; over the length of Manhattan, you could line up 414 more Transits (4300) on one road than the 3886 Crown Vics consuming the same real estate.