MAYOR Bloomberg’s goal of creating a green taxi fleet is commendable — but limiting the solution to hybrids and diesels is wrong for New York.
A federal court struck down the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s first effort to impose Bloomberg’s vision, but the TLC has just voted in similar rules.
Legal issues aside, what the TLC’s plan misses is the fact that hybrids, for all their fuel-efficient appeal, aren’t designed for 24/7 commercial use. Worse, most hybrid models are too small to accommodate taxi partitions.
In short, these cars are ill-equipped to safely and comfortably transport 240 million passengers a year.
A New York City taxicab typically travels 100,000 miles a year — more than most passenger vehicles log in their lifetimes. That’s why hybrid yellow cabs have been spending too much time with mechanics and not enough time servicing the riding public.
And, because these cars are smaller, the mandatory partition must go several inches closer to passengers’ faces — a clear invitation to a whole host of safety problems.
The comfort issue is clear: Many passengers are complaining about the lack of legroom and boxed-in feeling of hybrid taxis.
In passenger hybrids like the Ford Escape, passengers have 10 inches less legroom than in a stretch Crown Victoria. (And people more than 6 feet tall riding in the back seat will find their heads hitting the ceiling.)
New Yorkers expect their taxis to be roomy enough to comfortably accommodate four passengers at a time and large enough to carry luggage to and from the airports. These cabs don’t fit the bill.
The taxi industry is committed to going green — but not at the expense of providing safe, reliable and comfortable passenger service.
The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, the largest association of taxi fleets, has more experience running double-shifted 24/7 hybrid and non-hybrid taxicabs than anyone else. We’ve put forward an alternative proposal for a green and sustainable taxi policy that is not limited to hybrids and diesels.
Here are the highlights:
* End the era of the Crown Victoria cab, but replace it with another safe, reliable commercial vehicle that is more fuel-efficient. (Those Crown Vics still on the road can be outfitted with after-market catalytic converters that reduce tailpipe emissions by at least 35 percent across the board.)
* Start purchasing roomy, efficient, clean vehicles designed and built to be used as cabs. The Ford Transit Connect (22 mpg city, 25 mpg highway) will be available in the New York City taxi market this fall.
The Connect has a proven safety record in Europe. It’s not a hybrid, but it’s rated an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle and achieves a 50 percent increase in fuel efficiency and a 70 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions over the Crown Vic. Replacing the Vic with the Connect across the city’s taxi fleet is the carbon equivalent of taking 2,577 cars off the road.
Hybrid taxis just aren’t cutting it on New York City streets. We could be just a few months away from getting clean, fuel-efficient vehicles like the Ford Transit Connect on city streets. But if the TLC has its way, New Yorkers will never be able to hail them — simply because they are not hybrids.
The TLC should give passengers and owners a real choice.
By RON SHERMAN
Ron Sherman is president of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, which represents 28 yellow-medallion taxi fleets in New York City, about a quarter of the industry.