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The Ever-Elusive, Energy-Efficient New York City Taxi

2011 April 26

By John Martin

Although I prefer riding the train to get around town, sometimes taking a cab isn’t a bad option. If I’m with a group of people, or I’m running late, taking a taxi sometimes just makes sense. As a New Yorker, I understand the value of having cabs filling our streets, but I also recognize the damage they’re doing to our air. With car companies finally producing fuel-efficient cars in large numbers, I decided to look into what, if anything, is being done to clean up the New York City taxi fleet.

Back in February, the Supreme Court refused to allow a city plan that would require cab owners to replace old gas-guzzling cabs with more fuel-efficient models. The 2007 law would have mandated all taxis operating in New York run at an average of 30 mpg, and would have required all 13,000 of the city’s cabs to be replaced with hybrids by 2012.

Not to be deterred, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Nadler soon thereafter introduced the “Green Taxis Act,” a federal law that would allow cities to mandate use of more fuel-efficient taxis. So far, the mayors of Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles have all come out in favor of this act, but it’s not likely this support will be enough to get it through Congress.

Now it’s not clear when, if ever, New York will get cleaner taxis. Our most popular cab model—the gas-guzzling, 12 mpg Crown Victoria—is now in its final year of production. That’s the good news. The not-so-great news is that the city will soon unveil a universal taxi to replace the 16 models currently on the road beginning in 2014. Although the three models under consideration have their advantages (including the ability to transport wheelchair-bound passengers), fuel economy isn’t one of them. The Ford Transit Connect gets only 21 mpg in city driving. The two others don’t figure to be much better.

With the average New York taxi currently getting 22 mpg (even after you factor in all those Crown Vics), and no viable plans to make our fleet more efficient on the horizon, it looks like city taxis will be burning lots of gas for the foreseeable future. Looks like the subway will continue to be my preferred mode of transportation for a long, long time.

About the author: John Martin is a native New Yorker with a background in law and politics. He became an EPA press officer in 2010.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Moe Yusuf permalink
    April 26, 2011

    I am driving Hybrid Camry and can see the difference in gas comsumption while gas prices are increasing exponentially.
    Hybrid taxi I addressed this issue so clean enviornment is the main question which in result healthy people.

  2. Scott Osberg permalink
    April 27, 2011

    Eco-driving, which is basically smooth and defensive driving can save 5 to 15% on fuel consumption.

    I wonder if NYC could support eco-driving education for taxi drivers. Taxi drivers would save a lot of money if they adapted a few simple changes, like not idling and smoother acceleration and braking, proper tire inflation, etc. Taxi drivers are among the worst offenders at hard acceleration only to get to the next light and slam on the brakes. I suspect they think this impresses their riders, but this may not be true.

  3. Cee Johnson permalink
    April 28, 2011

    Maybe the fact that gas prices keep getting higher will eventually force the taxi fleets to change to more fuel efficient models. Higher fuel cost=higher taxi fares. Eventually something will have to be done.

  4. John Martin permalink
    May 3, 2011

    Mayor Bloomberg announced the winner of the City’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” competition this morning:

    The 10-year agreement with Nissan will eventually replace to replace all NYC cabs with the company’s NV200 vans.

    No word yet on the vehicle’s gas milage.

  5. New York Wedding Photographer permalink
    November 14, 2011

    This will lessen the pollution that affect the ozone layer, good for the health and environment. Reduces the cost of fares for the passengers and the fuel for the driver. When will this be happen?

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