On Earth Day this year (22 April 2007), Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a plan to make New York City more environmentally friendly, and to do so in dramatic ways. In the last month, he has announced support for a plan to begin charging a "congestion" fee for vehicles in the more crowded parts of the city. He also hosted the second Large Cities Climate Summit to address environmental issues of the biggest metropolitan areas on the planet. Now, as VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from New York, Bloomberg wants to help the city take the lead in reducing carbon emissions by targeting one of its symbols.
When the Internet company Yahoo! announced its "Greenest City in America" challenge, it started off the competition by donating 10 sport utility vehicles to a New York taxi company. These SUVs use hybrid technology with a combination of gasoline and electricity that is more environmentally friendly.
The winning city of the Yahoo! challenge gets an entire fleet of these hybrid taxis.
But ahead of the competition's deadline in June, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is launching a major change to this recognizable symbol of New York -- the yellow cab.
In front of City Hall, Bloomberg announced that all yellow taxis in the city of New York will be required to use hybrid technology and meet new fuel consumption standards. "Phased in over the next five years, these new standards will cut carbon emissions from these vehicles by half within a decade."
Right now, the Ford Crown Victoria is the most commonly used vehicle for taxis in the city. It gets 14 miles to the gallon. In comparison, Ford's Escape Sport Utility Vehicle gets 36 miles per gallon. "It will be the cleanest, largest fleet of taxis anywhere on the planet, and because taxis are so heavily used, the new standards will have the equivalent effect of removing 32,000 individually owned gas powered vehicles from our streets."
While hybrids are more expensive, the city says that taxi owners could save as much as $10,000 a year in fuel expenses. Many taxi owners and companies are supportive of the change.
About 400 hybrids were introduced to the taxi fleet over the last 18 months in an effort to test their efficiency. The permanent introduction of hybrid yellow taxis begins in 2008, and also includes other hybrids from companies such as Toyota, Lexus and Honda.
Bloomberg says he hopes the introduction of a completely hybrid taxi fleet will help the city reach his broader goal of a 30 percent reduction in New York City's overall carbon emissions by the year 2030.