Mayor Bloomberg and Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky today joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and
Congressman Jerrold Nadler to announce the introduction of the Green Taxis Act of 2011, which would modify Federal law to give local governments the authority to regulate fuel economy and emissions standards for taxi cabs. Existing Federal laws have been cited in lawsuits that first blocked Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC mandate for all taxi cabs to be fuel efficient and subsequently were cited in cases that blocked a portion of the Mayor’s plan to provide financial incentives for use of fuel efficient vehicles. Despite the legal obstacles, the City’s efforts have helped transform more than one-third of the taxi fleet to being fuel efficient. The Mayor also was joined by David Bragdon, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability and Mark Izeman of Natural Resources Defense Council at the announcement today on the plaza of City Hall.
“Cities like New York have taken the lead in sustainability issues, pushing for standards that go far beyond what the Federal government has set,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “When we hit legal impasses in our effort to create a cleaner taxi fleet, we vowed we would not to let any setbacks derail us – and we haven’t. I want to thank Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Nadler for their hard work on this new legislation. Not only will going green shrink the city’s carbon footprint and help us meet our PlaNYC global warming goals, it will also greatly reduce the pollution that fouls our air and causes childhood asthma and other serious diseases.”
“Congress must act to provide New York, and cities all across the country, with the common sense tools they need to improve the quality of air and quality of life for their citizens,” said Senator Gillibrand. “By creating fuel efficient taxi fleets, we can improve air quality and lower carbon emissions while reducing our consumption of foreign oil. It’s time to update antiquated federal rules and allow cities to take a major step forward towards a cleaner and safer nation.”
“When it comes to reducing carbon emissions in our cities and improving the quality of our air, we need to do more to embrace forward-looking environmental policies,” said Congressman Nadler. “The Green Taxis Act will go a great distance toward making our air cleaner, making taxis more energy efficient, and advancing a more sustainable future. Along with Senator Gillibrand, I’m pleased to re-introduce this crucial legislation which will bring federal environmental policy up-to-date with the needs of our cities.”
“It is the height of irony that a law created over three decades ago to help clean our air has prevented us from doing just that,” said Taxi Commissioner Yassky. “And thanks to Senator Gillibrand, Representative Nadler, and the tireless efforts of the Bloomberg Administration, the time is now for us to correct that unintended consequence so that we can all breathe easier.”
“Communities across the nation are making local efforts to have cleaner air by having cleaner cabs – Congress should give them the flexibility to do so,” said David Bragdon, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.
“Many cities and states have developed innovative policies that also address climate change,” said Mark Izeman, Natural Resources Defense Council Director of the New York Urban Program. “Washington should be encouraging them to do even more, not standing in the way. This sensible clean taxi legislation would allow New York and cities around the country to consume less oil and spew fewer pollutants into the atmosphere – and that’s good for our health.”
Current policies under the Federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the Federal Clean Air Act have blocked localities from setting fuel economy and emissions standards for taxis. Those have been cited in court decisions that first blocked Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC mandate for all taxi cabs to be fuel efficient and subsequently were cited in cases that blocked a portion of the Mayor’s plan to provide financial incentives for the use of fuel efficient taxis.
In 2009, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Nadler introduced legislation to empower cities to reduce emissions and improve air quality. The two lawmakers have been working closely with Mayor Bloomberg, environmental organizations, and the transportation industry to amend federal environmental law to allow for a greener fleet of taxi cabs.
New York City’s current primary taxi cab is the Crown Victoria, which has one of the worst emissions ratings for light duty vehicles. City taxis travel an average of 80,000 miles per year, compared to a typical passenger car with an average 15,000 miles per year. Upgrading to fuel efficient taxis with lower emissions would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 296,000 tons, or the equivalent of taking 35,000 cars off the road. At today’s gas prices, drivers of hybrid taxis save an average of $5,250 in gas costs per year.
Switching to greener taxis would also significantly improve air quality and provide health benefits. A typical city taxi emits roughly 71 percent more nitrogen oxide and 89 percent more hydrocarbons than fuel efficient vehicles. These pollutants can lead to lung tissue damage and exacerbate asthma symptoms. Studies have shown that even a slight reduction in the pollutants that form smog could have a substantial health benefit.
Last July, mayors from half a dozen cities – New York, Washington, DC, Las Vegas, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles – signed onto a letter in support of Gillibrand-Nadler legislation. Boston and Seattle have also attempted to green their taxi fleets and mandate upgrades to cleaner, more efficient vehicles. Those efforts have also been blocked in court.
New York City has 4,500 fuel efficient taxis in the fleet of 13,237 taxis.