Why Can't All Yellow Taxis Be Green?


Later this morning at City Hall, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Jerry Nadler will announce new federal legislation that would allow New York City and cities across the country to require their taxi fleets to go “green.”

The Green Taxis Act – supported by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his Taxi Commissioner David Yassky – is a short and simple bill that would modify federal law to give local governments the authority to regulate fuel economy and emissions for taxicabs.

Why do we need a bill like this?

In short, several weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a lower federal court ruling that essentially blocked New York City’s efforts to expand its popular, hybrid-electric taxi program.  Because the previous ruling now stands, the City will have great difficulty in increasing the number of clean air taxis on the streets unless there is a change in federal law.

In 2005, New York City introduced the first hybrid yellow taxis to improve air quality, reduce our dependence on oil, and to help drivers and passengers save money. The Ford Escape Hybrid, now being used as yellow taxis, emits 41 percent less global warming pollution and consumes 41 percent less gasoline than the Ford Crown Victoria cab.  And lower fuel consumption can save drivers over $4,700 per year at the pump.

Over the last six years, the number of New York City yellow hybrid taxis has climbed to around 3,900 cars – or roughly 30 percent of the total taxi fleet.  But in a ruling last summer, a federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled that New York City did not have the power to provide financial incentives to taxi owners to boost the overall number of hybrid taxis. The court ruled that federal law “preempted” the City’s ability to establish fuel efficiency rules for taxis.

The new green taxi bill that will be announced today will in effect “overturn” the federal court ruling by providing localities with clear authority to require better mileage and less air pollution from their taxi fleets – which will boost the quality of life in their communities.

It is only common sense to allow cities like New York to take action to reduce greenhouse gases, improve our health, and help our fiscal bottom line.

NRDC will be behind Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Nadler as they work to pass this bill through both houses of Congress. 

And we thank Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Yassky for their determination to green the City’s taxi fleet and set an example of innovative city polices that improve residents' health while addressing climate change and air pollution.

Washington should be encouraging cities to do as much as they can in this fight.


Here's a picture from the press event:


From left to right: NRDC's Mark Izeman, Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability Director David Bragdon, Taxi Commissioner David Yassky, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Rep. Jerry Nadler