Hybridization of NYC Cabs Still Causing a Stir


Courtesy of Harsh Vardhan

The issue of hybridizing New York City cabs has been handed back and forth between advocates and the court system for many years. Four years, in fact. In 2007, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg first announced a plan to convert all of New York’s cabs to gas-electric hybrids by 2012.

Well, 2012 is almost here and cabs in the Big Apple are still as environmentally unfriendly as they were four years ago. Furthermore, any effort on behalf of the New York state government to clean up the city’s air seems to have disappeared.

The reason?

In early-March, the New York Times reported that, “the United States Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal by the city on its longstanding effort to mandate fuel emissions standards in New York City’s taxicabs, using up the legal options for a policy that had been twice struck down by lower courts.”

In 1963, the United States Congress passed the Clean Air Act – the first significant environmental law passed in the U.S. The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 put forward emissions trading, added provisions for addressing acid rain, ozone depletion, and most relevant to the hybrid cabs issue, toxic air pollution.

The contradiction lies in the disconnect between what should happen and what is actually happening.

According to the same New York Times article, “The Taxi and Limousine Commission  [of New York City] regulates which vehicle models can be used as yellow taxis, a list that now consists of 12 models, 9 of them hybrids.” But, despite the agency’s efforts, “Any move to enforce environmental standards by restricting the list to hybrids would probably be considered a form of regulation and subject to the same legal challenge.”

The dispute is obvious, and the solution requires a line to be established, defining where the burden that hybridization carries for commercial cab drivers, who require commercial-grade vehicles that are cheaper to run than their hybrid counterparts, ends and environmental measures take precedence.

Check out the New York Times article mentioned – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/nyregion/01taxi.html

– By Kane Carpenter