Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced today a plan to replace the city’s entire yellow cab fleet with environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles over the next five years.
The proposal is the latest push in Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC to create a more environmentally sustainable city and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The new taxi standards would be phased in over a four-year period and would lead to a full fleet of hybrids by 2012.
“There’s an awful lot of taxicabs on the streets of New York City obviously, so it makes a real big difference,” Mayor Bloomberg said this morning on the NBC News program “Today.” “These cars just sit there in traffic sometimes, belching fumes; this does a lot less. It’s a lot better for all of us.”
The city has already experimented with using hybrids as yellow cabs in the past. In the last two years, it has added about 400 such vehicles to its fleet, including models like the Toyota Prius, Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Ford Escape. Under the new proposal, that number would increase to 1,000 by October 2008 and would grow by about 20 percent each year after that until the entire fleet is converted.
Hybrids, which run on a combination of gas and electricity, are far more fuel efficient than ordinary cars, getting up to 60 miles to the gallon. The new proposal calls for all new vehicles entering the fleet beginning October 2008 to get at least 25 miles to the gallon. The standard goes up to 30 miles to the gallon the following year.
That fuel efficiency far exceeds that of the Crown Victoria, which gets between 10 and 15 miles to the gallon and currently makes up about 90 percent of the city’s 13,000 licensed yellow cabs. A cabdriver can pay as much as $100 a day to keep the tank in a Crown Victoria full.
The mayor’s PlaNYC had initially called for the entire fleet of taxis to be replaced over the next 8 to 10 years, citing questions about their durability as 24-hour, seven-day-a-week vehicles. Today the mayor credited City Councilman David Yassky, a longtime advocate of a greener taxi fleet, with convincing him to speed up the timeline.
“We had an opportunity to do it, and I think David Yassky really deserves a lot of credit,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “He pushed for a faster schedule.”
The mayor and Mr. Yassky unveiled the proposal this morning on “Today.” At the same time Yahoo Inc., announced that it would help the city jump start its efforts by donating 10 hybrid Ford Escape taxis, which get 36 miles per gallon.
Mayor Bloomberg called Yahoo’s donation “a heck of an impetus for us to go ahead and say ‘Let’s do it now.’ ”
Taxi industry representatives were tentative about the proposal, which must still be approved by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
“The trick is to balance passenger comfort and safety, for both the passenger and the driver, with environmental concerns,” Michael Woloz, who represents the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, an industry group, said today. “The stretch Crown Victoria has met all those needs. It was stretched 6 inches in the back to give passengers more leg room and have a safety partition for the driver. Now if we can find a cab that has all of those elements, and that passengers are going to like, and that we’re going to feel putting our drivers in, then we’re all for it.”
The taxi commission requires that regular, gasoline-burning cabs be retired after about three years — a turnover rate that will help the city to begin reshaping the fleet.
“It costs less to operate these and it puts a lot less into the air, so our kids will breathe better,” Mayor Bloomberg said this morning.
Although the city does not own the taxis that operate in the five boroughs, it licenses the medallions for every taxicab through the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and owners and drivers must purchase cars that meet the agency’s regulations.
Converting the taxi fleet to hybrids comes as the city is also pushing to clean up its buses. With a push from environmental groups, the city has gradually been replacing its dirty, older diesel buses with cleaner natural-gas vehicles and diesel-electric hybrids. More than 10 percent of New York City Transit’s 4,500-bus fleet now consists of natural-gas or diesel-electric hybrids, which produce lower amounts of particulates and nitrogen and sulfur oxides.