Cabbies Concerned Over Bloomberg Bid to Turn Fleet Hybrid

Plans to turn New York City’s iconic yellow taxi fleet into hybrids is being met with some resistance by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Early last week, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the city has struck a deal with several major automobile manufacturers to guarantee a monthly supply of hybrids to New York City’s taxi drivers, securing 200 Altima hybrids from Nissan, 50 Malibus from Chevy, and 50 Ford Escapes.

The purpose of the deal is to place New York cabbies at the front of the line for the hybrids, which are currently in high demand all over the country. 1300 of New York’s taxis have already gone hybrid, saving drivers precious fuel money and, of course, reducing the city’s carbon emissions. The 300 figure was crafted to exceed the 210 per month that the Taxi and Limousine Commission estimates are necessary to satisfy new fuel efficiency standards for the taxicab fleet (25 miles per gallon beginning in October).

According to TLC Chairman Matthew Daus, the hybrids “save drivers around $6500 per year and have been passing inspections 85 percent of the time, as compared to the average 54 percent for other prevalent taxicab vehicles. Switching to a hybrid makes more sense for drivers’ wallets, and for our environment.”

Still, the plan is being met with some resistance.  Drivers are voicing concerns over what some see as a policy that is forcing them into hybrids, which have not yet been effectively proven for durability in the eyes of some cab drivers. Critics claim that Mayor Bloomberg is forcing the deal in advance of the readiness of a hybrid that is tested properly for street use by taxis.  While this may be the case, nobody can argue with the savings and better likelihood of passing the TLC fuel efficiency standards that the hybrids offer. Nearly ten percent of the city’s fleet currently consists of hybrid vehicles.

Inside sources claim that Bloomberg’s office was trying to get Ford to increase their commitment on Escapes from the 50 promised, but the beleaguered manufacturer is having difficulty stocking lots with the wildly popular vehicle.

Beginning in October of this year, all taxis except accessible taxis must meet an EPA city mileage rating of 25 miles per gallon.  By October 2009, all city cabs must conform to a minimum city driving rating of 30 miles per gallon. These rules are designed to ensure that by 2012 New York City’s taxi fleet will either be hybrids or powered by some other form of “clean” fuel.

Taxi industry leaders are seeking to have the city push back the start date of the new rule, which is unlikely because it was introduced to accelerate action on the part of the industry. The original plan (sponsored by David Yassky of Brooklyn) called for an all-hybrid fleet by 2012, but the Bloomberg administration did not believe such a goal would happen without pushing for more immediate measures.

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