Hail the Yassky Cab: All NYC Taxis to be Hybrid by 2012

The Today Show cast, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Yahoo! executive and Council Member David Yassky stand with a gas-electric hybrid Ford Escape SUV taxi this morning.

Though members of my immediate family claim that it is the most mind-numbingly boring of all 500 cable channels available in our home, I’m a big fan of NYCTV Channel 74 (and don’t get me started about Channel 93’s riveting City Drive Live, traffic cam after traffic cam, get yourself a bucket of popcorn and settle in).

One of the best "shows" that I ever saw on Channel 74 was a 2005 City Council hearing on Council Member David Yassky’s hybrid taxi legislation. The push for hybrid cabs has been a pillar of Yassky’s platform since his first days in City Council. In 2003 he introduced 81 taxi medallions designated strictly for hybrid vehicles. In 2005 the city released another 250 of the hybrid medallions.

Putting cleaner and more fuel efficient taxi cabs on the streets of New York seemed to me to be a no-brainer and a big win for taxi drivers, taxi riders and the city as a whole. So, it was incredible to watch Taxi Commissioner Chairman Matthew Daus flanked by a couple of old school taxi industry guys on Channel 74, rejecting every one of Yassky’s attempts to get the TLC to commit to more hybrid cabs. Back in 2005, this idea seemed to be an impossibility.

Times have changed. This morning Mayor Bloomberg and Yassky appeared together on the Today Show to announce the city’s commitment to establishing an all-hybrid or low emission taxi fleet for New York City by 2012. City Council and the TLC haven’t gotten their hands on it yet, so who knows what the final law will look like. But here are the general outlines of the new legislation as described to me by a Yassky aide:

  • Current law mandates that cab owners must purchase new vehicles every three years. Between now and January 2008 somewhere around 2,700 new cabs will be put on the street. The new law suggests that the taxi industry voluntarily commit to making sure that 20%, or 540, of these new cabs are hybrids.
  • By October 2008 all newly purchased yellow cabs will be vehicles with a 25 m.p.g. city rating or higher.
  • October 2009 all newly purchased yellow cabs will be vehicles with a 30 m.p.g. city rating or higher or low emission standards. Including the three year turnover, by October 2012 all of New York City’s 13,000 taxis would meet this standard.

20 thoughts on Hail the Yassky Cab: All NYC Taxis to be Hybrid by 2012

  1. 1. SUVs — hybrid or not — are more dangerous to pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists.

    2. Emissions are only ONE of the many reasons auto traffic is bad for the city and its residents.

    3. Last I heard, Yassky was adamantly anti-congestion pricing. In other words, he’s probably using this hybrid cab thing as political cover for the fact that he’s opposed to meaningful reform of the city’s transportation systems.

  2. Maybe they can use this as an opportunity to gut the transmissions so it takes cabs about a minute to get from 0-30mph.

  3. I somehow forgot to add that sources say Yassky is coming out in favor of congestion pricing.

  4. The Escape is just one of the options…. the others include the toyota camry, toyota prius, honda accord, and a number of other sedans.

    Did anyone else notice that the 25 mpg city limit will make it impossible to have a non-hybrid cab starting in 2008? There’s no non-hybrid authorized for hack-up that gets over 25 mpg in the urban cycle. Bloomberg is pretty smart!

  5. so the legislation doesn’t mandate that it must be a hybrid car outright but basically guarantees it because of the ‘high’ mpg requirements?

  6. From what I was told it sounds like it will mandate better fuel efficiency OR low emissions technology. So I suppose it doesn’t have to be a hybrid by those standards, no. But let’s see how the bill is written….

  7. This post has more information than the NY Times article, so some of my comments earlier (to the headline post) are not applicable. This is not a technology-specific proposal, it just favors hybrids.

    But, I still think that the proposal is short-sighted. Given the biggest environmental impact a vehicle has is its manufacture, the requirement of three-year turnover undermines the mileage component of the proposal.

    Better to have chassis and drivetrains that have a longer life and lower mileage. While diesels are anathema in this country, a rear-wheel-drive, body-on-frame, diesel-engined cab would have the lowest environmental impact. RWD and diesel are cheaper to maintain than front- or four-wheel-drive. And, RWD and body-on-frame (like the sturdy Crown Vic) handles the abuse of 24-hour service and potholes better than unibody. Diesels can get close to the same mileage. And, a diesel engine’s power characteristics are well suited for taxi use: low-end grunt but not a lot of power. Meaning, they can navigate traffic, but don’t have a lot of top speed.

  8. Damien,
    The Yassky-Bloomberg hybrid program does not endorse SUVs over compact hybrids in any way. Also, Aaron is correct in stating that David has come out in favor of congestion pricing, albeit he has some additions he would like to see added.

  9. Damian, I think you’re confusing Yassky with Congressman Weiner.

    Yassky is a bright guy, very ambitious and going places. And why? He listens. I’m in Carroll Gardens, have met Yassky at least a dozen times now, have met my Councilman (DeBlasio) . . . zero. Not knocking deBlasio at all, but Yassky is out there constantly, and has an ear to the ground.

    I think you have your facts wrong.

  10. Where was Yassky on the pedicab ban? Yassky is my Councilman, and I have met him once – but who did he listen to when it came to the pedicab ban? I wonder? Needless to say, I was (and still am) totally outraged by his lack of support for the pedicabbers.

    That being said, I think this bill could be really great. It’s smart to mandate that *new* cabs be highly fuel efficient. They are going to be buying new cars anyway, why not get cars that use less fuel? Its a no brainer.

  11. I don’t see a need for SUV taxis, but minivan taxis yes. Several years ago my father had an ailment that made it very difficult for him to bend or raise his legs. He couldn’t even get up the stairs into a bus, let alone down to the subway, and regular Crown Vic taxis were uncomfortable. The minivan cabs were very helpful.

    I still have fond memories of the old Checker cabs, though.

  12. Absurd! Not too long ago Volkswagen spent $400 million to design its new Bug. That kind of money spent designing hybrid human-electric transport and human-scale modular monorail systems and transit will transform global transportation and greatly mitigate the major cause of global warming with immediate benefit to humanity in many important ways. Hybrid cars currently proposed will at best slightly delay the inevitable demise of automobiles as a viable mode of transport within civil and eco-responsible society.

    Large companies like General Electric and Siemens will readily reap tremendous benefit from viral dissemination of the technology to extended markets. Costs will be more closely aligned to human services and labor rather than materials, machinery, and continued environmental destruction.

  13. to Angus Grieve-Smith-
    I appreciate that minivan taxis can be helpful in some important cases, but I am also frightened to imagine even more tall vehicles on our streets. Pedestrians who jaywalk without looking are a serious danger to cyclists mainly because tall vehicles block our views. If more cabs were tall, I wonder how many more possibly fatal accidents there would be for the rest of us.

  14. You make an important point, Biker, but the minivans don’t need to be that tall to accommodate someone with a condition like my father had; the seats just need to be a little higher. We’re not talking some Yukon that you need a ladder to get into.

  15. Re Diesels:

    The *local* environmental impact of diesel vehicles would be huge. Try walking in a city like Paris with a lot of diesel cabs and vespas. Yes, it’s more fuel efficient, but it’s also more carcinogenic.

    Also, there is a three year turn around, but the cars used are not destroyed. They’re simply sent for cab duty in Jersey City or the outer boroughs!

    The good part about hybrid tech. is that you use mostly electric components while driving in the city. That saves a ton of wear and tear, and the vehicles should have high reliability because electric components don’t wear out.

    Also, diesel vehicles would be spewing fumes while stopped in traffic. Hybrid cars wouldn’t be emit anything.

  16. jmc, if only it were that simple.
    Read post # 113 here


    and the responses.

    Some links don’t work but go to the link and search for kittleson and you’ll find the relebvant research paper.

    Under many conditions gas engines emit as much carcinogenic particulate matter as diesels. Yes, there are many other pros and cons of both gas and diesel but the point is that neither is safer than the other.

    At least with diesel you get much better fuel economy and much reduced CO2 production

  17. I’m attaching a statement from Anne Davis, who heads a group I work with.

    Sadly, Council Member Yassky and Mayor Bloomberg have not endorsed a City Council bill, Intro. 378, that would convert the entire fleet to green and accessible vehicles over the next several years. Instead, they’ve backed this proposal, which would only do half the job.

    There should be no contradiction between the goals of clean air and non-discriminatory transportation. Unfortunately, the mayor’s initiative separates the two.

    Finally, speaking of clean air, how about Mayor Bloomberg’s breath-taking response to a reporter’s question about the concerns of wheelchair users who won’t have access to the new fleet of cabs, as reported in the Daily News: “I’m sure you have found somebody that isn’t happy and we appreciate the efforts that you make.”


    Statement of Anne Davis,
    Chair, Taxis For All Campaign
    on Mayor Bloomberg’s Clean-air Taxi Plan

    May 22, 2007

    To hear Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement, you would never know that New York City lags far behind other cities in providing accessible taxis for wheelchair users. His failure to commit to a gradual transition to a wheelchair-accessible taxi fleet represents a shocking failure of vision.

    Wheelchair-accessible cabs are currently available, new models are under development, and a mandate for accessibility would spur further innovation. But the Bloomberg administration has refused to join the majority of City Council members who support Intro. 378 — The Accessible and Green Taxi Transition Law.

    While Intro. 378 would mean a fully accessible, green fleet around 2015, under Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal, the fleet would be fully green by 2012 but not accessible until some undetermined time in the long distant future.

    A fully accessible fleet would save money on paratransit costs and would make a vital part of the city’s transportation system accessible to all.

    The Taxis For All Campaign has long supported a cleaner taxi fleet: we breathe the same air as everybody else. We are eager to work with Mayor Bloomberg not only to have cleaner taxis but also to have a full fleet of taxis we can actually use.

    — 30 —

  18. VDH-

    For extraurban uses and in low traffic conditions, I agree that diesels are better than hybrid gasoline cars. If there is a bluetec urea reduction system, I also agree that diesels can be cleaned up significantly.

    However, for start and stop applications such as taxicabs, hybrids are superior as they store the energy from braking and reuse it. Also, when cabs are stopped in traffic, they won’t be emitting.

    If someone comes out with a hybrid diesel taxi, it would be great. The system they use on the diesel buses is excellent.

    For overall US strategy, most rural areas and suburbs would benefit from diesels. For manhattan, hybrid cabs are a good solution for right now.

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