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.

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