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NYC Taxi Owners Sue to Stop Hybrid Cabs

| Thursday September 18th, 2008 | 7 Comments

hybridtaxi.jpg The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade has filed a suit to block a measure to go into effect on October 1st that would mandate all new taxis to have a fuel efficiency of at least 25 miles per gallon. According to the press release put out by the group, the suit is based on the findings of a report by C. Bruce Gambardella, who previously consulted for the City of New York and several automakers. The report “exposes the risks and dangers of riding in New York City’s hybrid yellow taxicabs.”
Hybrid taxis in New York have been consistently making news for the past few years, notably with the announcement last year by the mayor’s office that all of the city’s taxis would be hybrids by 2012. Not to mention the mini-fleet of Ford Escape hybrids that entered operation in 2005, donated by Yahoo!.
GreenBiz reports that hybrids currently make up 11% of New York’s taxi fleet. Yet, both in terms of policy as well as safety, the taxicab board argues that the city is making a tragic mistake with the new mandate.


The report says that hybrids are not made to withstand the 24/7 rough wear-and-tear of taxicabs as the “purpose-built” Crown Victorias are. It concludes that hybrids are not designed to hold partitions, which are mandated by the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to prevent drivers from being assaulted, robbed, or killed. According to Gambardella’s research, partitions could compromise the vehicles’ safety systems by preventing side airbags from being deployed, can be easily dislodged in accidents, and severely diminish passenger legroom.
According to GreenBiz, the suit also contends that the new mandate is “pre-empting the federal government’s authority to set fuel efficiency and vehicle emissions standards.”
A recent Treehugger article asserted that the issue is as much of a concern with vehicle safety as it is with switching business practices, especially as the article’s author has personally never been in a hybrid taxi that had a partition. As previous arguments against implementing hybrid taxis were around the high up-front costs of the vehicles, there appears to be some credence in this. GreenBiz cites that around 3,000 yellow cabs are replaced every year, and some argue that the taxicab board does not have the means (or does not want) to take on the extra costs of replacing vehicles with hybrids every year.
Hybrids obviously offer a savings at some level, both an environmental as well as economic (according to the TLC, hybrid taxi’s are saving drivers $6,500 a year and they have better rates of passing inspection). With that said, there does seem to be sense to the report put out by Gambardella. Safety should be one of the highest concerns when it comes to taxi policy – for the driver, for the passenger, and for everyone else on the road. However, where do we strike the balance between safety and having vehicles that have next to nothing fuel efficiency? As the Treehugger article concludes, “We simply cannot afford from environmental grounds to continue to have a taxi fleet consisting of vehicles which get the pathetically poor gas mileage as the Crown Vic.”
(Photo: Dino Abatzidis)


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  • Dave Shires

    Part of me wants to say they have a point. I mean it’s in the cabbies’ best interest to save on gas right? Given high prices and the fact that fares are regulated (as far as I know) they ought to WANT hybrids and more efficient vehicles, after all start-stop NYC style driving is exactly where a hybrid makes the most sense.
    So it sound’s to me like there must be more going on, maybe they feel they’re being forced to take on the extra cost of upgrading the fleet at a time when they’re not prepared to? Why does it take government to get this done? I’m still not seeing a clear answer. I really don’t buy the plexiglass barrier argument either, that sound’s like a smokescreen for something else… hmm…

  • Tebb

    I say just make the cabbies bear the cost of higher gas and NOT the passenger. They’ll switch to hyrids pretty quickly

  • Uncle B

    Hybrids by law! We are borrowing money from CHINA to pay for OIL from SAUDI ARABIA!! We are going broke paying to burn oil we don’t have, and cannot afford, to support a lifestyle we are not entitled to! WE have NOT WON in IRAQ the lite sweet crude from Iraq is NOT flowing cheaply from our pumps! We spent $650 Billion dollars “liberating” a people that did not want “Liberation” and got FUCKED in the process(see George Bush/McCain for explanation) We are now bailing banks to the tune of $700 Billion dollars by printing money, thereby diluting the current dollar and raising the price on everything including OIL! Expect $14.00 a gallon gasoline by Christmas, and possibly payable in Euros, on the barrel head, because no one trusts our fiat money anymore, especially countries like Iceland, bankrupted by our crooked mortgage scheme, and in our good American name by the same bunch of banking bastards we are bailing out! Run Hybrid, plug in taxis everywhere by law, before we are all broke and walking!Wake Up America, Last call, Last Call!

  • Anonymous

    This was a very good artical but could have a little more explainning on what the danger hazards were. Over all pretty good! :)

  • Jay

    the upfront costs of the new hybrids vs the new crown vics are not the main issue – there are 2 other critical ones: insurance costs on the new hybrid are $4000 more a year, and the costs to maintain a hybrid for 300,000miles. for one replacement costs are 10 times more for japanese vs US built cars – hybrid batteries cost $7000 to replace every 100,000 or so miles. so thats another $14,000 over the life of the car. you must look at the TOTAL COST over the LIFE of the car not simply the upfront costs. taxi companies will do anything they can to save money, but the hybrids are not cost savers to taxi fleets like they might be to regular us consumers.

  • lvleph

    They could just drive a TDI instead of a hybrid.

  • SAM

     TAXIS ARE SERIOUSLY DANGEROUS TO PASSENGERS, PEDESTRIANS AND OTHER VEHICLES IN NEW YORK CITY.  MY BROTHER AND I HAVE BEEN ASSAULTED THREE TIMES BY THE TRASHY TAXIS THAT YOU WRITE ABOUT. IF YOU DRIVE IN YOUR NEW YORK CITY AND SOMEONE WAVES FOR A TAXI YOU WILL HAVE FIVE TAXIS CUTTING IN FRONT OF YOU IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET AND COMPETING WITH EACH OTHER WITHOUT REGARDS FOR PEOPLE’S SAFETY. YOU SHOULD EITHER REWRITE THE ARTICLE OR FIND ANOTHER BETTER SUBJECT TO TALK ABOUT. TAXIS ARE DANGEROUS TO PEOPLE LIVING IN NEW YORK CITY. THEY PUT EVERYONE’S SAFETY AT RISK. SOMEONE SHOULD CLEAN UP THE CITY OF THIS TRASH.THESE PEOPLE DRIVE LIKE MANIACS AND THIS IS WHY THEY CAUSE MOST OF THE ACCIDENTS IN NEW YORK CITY. THEY KILL PEOPLE. GET ALL THIS TRASH OUT OF THIS CITY.