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Local News November 20, 2008  RSS feed

City To Offer Cash For Greener Taxis

Mayor Announces Initiative
Story and photo by Robert Pozarycki

At Yakuel Taxi Garage in Long Island City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last Friday, Nov. 14 a new program designed to entice cab companies and drivers to purchase and use hybrid vehicles. He was joined at the announcement by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan, City Council Member David Yassky of Brooklyn, Taxi and Limousine Chairperson Matthew Daus, Richard Kassel of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Meir Yakuel, co-owner of the taxi company.
Making the city's yellow cabs more environmentally friendly are the goals of a new incentive program announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a taxi company in Long Island City last Friday, Nov. 14.

The mayor unveiled an initiative that would offer cash incentives and credits to owners of cab companies who purchase hybrid vehicles to replace cars in their fleet found not to be fuel efficient. Drivers of the hybrid cabs would also receive benefits through fewer gas purchases.

Joining Bloomberg at the announcement at the Yakuel Taxi Company base on 12th Street were Rep. Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan, Taxi and Limousine Commission Chairperson Matthew Daus, City Council Member David Yassky, Richard Kassel of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Meir Yakuel, co-owner of the Yakuel Taxi Garage, and driver Rati Sharma.

The announcement came days after a federal district court judge upheld a federal law that the mayor said prevented the city "from reducing greenhouse gases and improving air quality" by mandating high fuel efficiency standards for its yellow cabs.

"By offering incentives that will encourage more taxi fleet owners to purchase hybrids, we have found another avenue to reach our goal of greening our yellow cabs, improving our air quality and reducing carbon emissions," Bloomberg said.

In turn, Nadler stated that he would introduce legislation into Congress amending the federal law by giving states and localities the choice of setting stronger fuel efficiency standards for taxis and other forms of public transportation than mandated by the federal government.

"The recent federal court decision to block the greening of New York City's taxis is, I believe, not in keeping with the original spirit of federal environmental legislation," Nadler said. "Fuel-efficient taxis don't simply represent a pie-in-thesky futuristic luxury for New Yorkers but a present-day necessity which will produce a meaningful reduction in our city's carbon emissions."

Council Member Yassky also pledged to consider forming legislation on a local level aimed at reducing the required retirement age for Crown Victoria sedans that comprise the majority of yellow cab fleets in the city. The bill would also increase the retirement age for fuelefficient and hybrid vehicles to further encourage cab company owners to purchase new vehicles.

"The 1,551 hybrid taxicabs already on the road have saved their drivers lots of money while contributing to cleaner air," Daus said. "This incentive package will help us take these advances to the next level, and help our city become a cleaner, healthier place."

At the present time, individual cab owners and companies have voluntarily purchased hybrid and fuel-efficient vehicles into their fleets. The TLC regulates "lease caps" which levels the amount a fleet or taxi owner may charge a driver for the use of a cab or medallion license.

Under the program introduced by the mayor, the TLC would allow company owners to increase the lease cap by $3 per shift, thereby offsetting the increased cost of purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles.

Though the driver would pay an increased fee, Bloomberg noted, hacks would save money on their own as their expenditures on gasoline would be cut by half while driving hybrid vehicles.

At an estimated average savings of $15 per shift, taxi drivers could save up to $5,000 per year in out-ofpocket gas costs.

It is expected that the incentive will generate an additional $2,000 per year, per vehicle for all fleet owners. Additionally, the TLC will propose decreasing the lease cap fee an owner can charge a driver by $12 per shift if the vehicles used are not classified as fuel-efficient.

All vehicles considered handicapped accessible are exempt from the lease cap increases, Bloomberg said.

Currently, 13,000 yellow cabs operate in New York City; of them, just over 1,500 are hybrid or fuel efficient vehicles.