One step closer to all "green" yellow cabs for NYC

Good news from New York City: Since the last Checker went the way of the old Penn Station, New York has lacked a cab that lives up to New Yorkers’ elevated self-image. Uninspiring Crown Victorias now lumber down Broadway, inadequate substitutes for the Checkers they replaced. The Checker is history, but thanks to Mayor Bloomberg and the Taxi & Limousine Commission, New York will again have an iconic cab fleet, this time notable for being one of the world’s greenest and cleanest.

Last fall the mayor announced that, starting this October, all new cabs must get at least 25 m.p.g. in city driving. By October 2012, every cab in the city will have to get at least 30 m.p.g. By way of comparison, the Crown Vic averages a shameful 14 m.p.g. This initiative is a prominent example of New York’s sustainability efforts, and one that cities around the world have begun to emulate.

As I testified before the TLC at the time, this is great news; cabbies will save big money at the pump, and the cars will both spew less throat-clogging local pollution and reduce New York’s carbon footprint and dependence on oil. Though bicycling, walking or taking public transit are still the most environmental transportation choices, hybrid cabs are a big improvement over the status quo. According to the TLC these new cabs will emit up to 215,000 fewer tons of carbon every year than the old fleet.

There are currently eight hybrid models that meet the new standards (and given technological advancements, likely many more in future years), but some fleet owners had worried that there wouldn’t be enough vehicles to meet the new requirements. Yesterday the city and carmakers reached an agreement ensuring that the fleet conversion to hybrids can happen on schedule. Nissan, GM, and Ford will guarantee the city 300 hybrids a month to meet the fleets’ demand. While none of these vehicles may be able to evoke the classic looks of the Checker, they represent the city’s innovation and optimism like the Crown Vic never could.