The city of San Francisco, recognized for its progressive approach to issues, recently announced that they have met their 2008 mandate to reduce per vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels.
According to San Francisco’s Cityinsider, “Phasing in hybrid electric and compressed natural gas cabs into the fleet … resulted in 35,139 fewer metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions being spewed into our skies, the same as taking 6,890 cars off the road each year. It [also] saved cab drivers $11 million in gas costs each year.” San Francisco now has 1,432 cabs compared to the 821 they had in 1990, showing a decrease in overall emissions of the fleet by 10 percent.
Other large cities have been less successful in achieving similar results. And the Taxi and Limousine Commission in several cities have been successful in thwarting emission changes by claiming that Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the Clean Air Act preempt city mandates. When New York city attempted to mandate their yellow taxis green, they were stopped by the Supreme Court. City cabbies resisted the switchover because they anticipated the costs of conversion to be high. They sued the Taxi and Limousine Commission, claiming that by mandating hybrid cab use the city’s regulations preempted Federal law.
Unlike San Francisco, who had anticipated resistance from drivers and worked to resolve this in an innovative way, New York mandated that taxis achieve 25 miles per gallon although not specifically calling for hybrids. These regulations ran counter to federal guidelines and the courts agreed that ” … questions of federal preemption begin with the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution which ‘invalidates state laws that interfere with, or are contrary to, federal law.’”
San Francisco progressives raised funds to buy hybrid taxis for the city’s fleet by increasing the 10 hour daily rental fees for cabbies. At the time, drivers had a hard time accepting that increased mileage on a hybrid taxi would also mean increased profits in their pockets. They have since changed their minds. And the bonus is that riders of San Francisco were not asked to pay more in fares.
Photo credit flickr Demetrios Lyras