Nyc to Turn Yellow Cabs Green?

  • NYC has new incentives to try to get more hybrid taxis, like this one, on the road (Source: Momos at Wikimedia Commons)

When big cities think about putting more fuel efficient, less polluting cars on the road, the first color that comes to mind isn’t green — it’s yellow. There are so many cabs on city streets, they seem like a good place to start environmental initiatives:


When big cities think about putting more fuel efficient, less-polluting cars on the road, the first color that comes to mind isn’t green— it’s yellow. There are so many cabs on city streets, they seem like a good place to start environmental initiatives. In New York City, the mayor has a plan to replace conventional cabs with gas-electric hybrids. But not all taxi drivers are thrilled about the plan. Samara Freemark talked to some of them:

Ask a New York city cabbie what kind of car he drives, and chances are, this is what you’ll hear.

“Crown Vic.”

“Crown Vic.”

“Crown Vic.”

Cabbies love this car. It’s this big, solid, safe thing. It’s got a lot of leg room. It’s easy to repair.

But it burns a lot of gas. And that means a lot of pollution, especially when you realize that there are 13,000 cabs in New York City. All that pollution contributes to asthma, heart disease, and a mess of other health problems.

And that is why New York mayor Mike Bloomberg has it in for the Crown Victoria.

Bloomberg has a plan. He wants to use market incentives to encourage cab companies to buy hybrid.

“To turn NY City’s yellow cabs green.”

Cute slogan.

But Bloomberg isn’t messing around. Just ask the reporter who challenged the idea at a press conference.

“The taxi owners who oppose your plan say it’s deeply troubling that the city is…”

“I think it is more deeply troubling that they’re trying to kill our kids.”

Tough talk, right? But here’s how Bloomberg’s plan would actually work.

A lot of cabbies don’t own their own cars – they lease them from cab companies.

Bloomberg wants to lower the fee companies can charge drivers to take out Crown Victorias. So company owners would make less money on conventional cars.

And he wants to let cab companies charge drivers more to take out hybrids. Companies that chose those cars would make more money, giving them a reason to go green.

There’s something in it for the drivers, too. Although have to pay more to rent the hybrid cabs, they’d make up that money, and then some – a big chunk, actually – in gas savings. Bloomberg says hybrid cab drivers could save hundreds of dollars a year under his plan.

It sounded like a win-win-win situation: good for cabbies, good for cab companies, and good for the environment.

So I went out to the curb to ask some cabbies what they thought of the mayor’s idea.

“I wanted to ask you about hybrids.”

“Hybrid taxi? Yes.”

Sukhinder Singh hadn’t heard about Bloomberg’s plan, but he liked it.

“That’s not a bad idea. You’re not spending any extra money. 3, 4 dollars or 10 dollars extra, you know that later on when you go home you get it back because if you spend less on gas. It helps also for the pollution too. Lot of cabs around NYC, so all pollution.”

But a lot of cab drivers – especially veteran drivers – are not that enthusiastic. They are worried that hybrids aren’t safe. They are worried that hybrids are too small. They are worried about the time and money it takes to repair a hybrid. And most of all, cab drivers like Lal Singh are worried about giving up their Crown Victorias.

“Of course we wish not to pay more money for the gas. But I prefer to keep this poor Crown Victoria. This car makes us live. This Crown Victoria is a very big time strong car. These hybrids, they are not for taxi. They are very small, very unsafe, very unfit.”

So you get the idea – he doesn’t like hybrids.

And there’s one more problem with Bloomberg’s plan. It looked pretty good when it came out, when gas was 4 dollars a gallon. But prices now are about half that. That means cabbies don’t save that much money when they pick a hybrid. And so they have even less reason to give up their beloved Crown Vics.

For The Environment Report, I’m Samara Freemark.

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