New York, which is probably the most energy-efficient city in North America, is taking things to a new level. Mayor Bloomberg is planning to convert the city’s entire fleet of 13,000 cabs to hybrids—or at least drastically improve their fuel efficiency.
Wow. That’s a far cry from what’s happening here in the Northwest. Take Seattle, for example. We scarcely even have cab service, much less an all green fleet.
First, I should note that taxis—even the old Crown Vics—can be a smart environmental choice. That’s because when cabs are plentiful and reliable, it’s easy to opt out of car ownership. And that means folks can travel many fewer miles by car, and thereby burn many fewer gallons of gasoline.
So you might imagine that that we’d want more cabs. But no. Seattle limits the number of cabs to just 667. Why? Because that’s what the city council decided 17 years ago.
Never mind that the city has changed since 1990, when the taxi limits went into place. Population has grown by more than 12 percent. Density has increased too. And civic leaders have promised to reduce both driving and greenhouse gas emissions. But in an act of industry protectionism (or maybe social engineering?) the city won’t allow more cabs.
There’s little sign that the ice is cracking. Even after a raft of recent complaints—here’s a hilarious one—about awful wait times and unreliable service, the city may allow a few more cab stands. Oh, and whopping 24 more taxis, a 3.6 percent increase.
As they say in New York: “oy vey.”
f.w.i.w, All of the SeaTac taxis run on compressed natural gas.http://www.portseattle.org/news/press/2006/12_13_2006_98.shtml
Eric de Place
Very cool, josh! Thanks for sharing. BTW, I’m curious to know how other Northwest jurisdictions treat their cab fleets. Anyone?
I don’t know about other cities in the region, but if I recall correctly, restricting taxi licence supply to make them artificially valuable to existing holders is common practice in general, and even done in NYC.I do think that having the limit as low as it is here is very counterproductive though, even for the industry. If people could expect to just hail a cab quickly at any intersection downtown, as is the case in Manhattan and central London, surely they’d be more likely to go shopping without their own car, in turn creating new business for the drivers.
New York’s plan sounds similar to BC’s recently announced fuel-efficient cab program.
Oh, and a City of Vancouver pdf containing an administrative report from April of this year states that the current number of cab licenses for Vancouver (not the GVRD) is 477 and that 243 new licenses will be issued between now and 2010 to bring the total to 720. This is being driven by wait-time complaints similar to those in Seattle, with the Olympics undoubtedly heightening the urgency somewhat.
Actually, reading further on, that report has a nice graphic on how fuel-efficient recent (since 2005) cab purchases have been in Vancouver.
Eric de Place
Interesting, Kevin. I haven’t had time to read the report yet, but I just fiddled around with some numbers. Vancouver and Seattle have almost exactly the same number of people inside city limits. So Seattle currently has about 1 cab for 870 people, while Van has 1 for every 1,237 or so residents. That surprises me; I would have thought Vancouver had a fleet at least as large as Seattle’s.With the new expansions of the fleets, both cities will wind up with nearly the same ratio: about 820-830 people per cab.Interestingly, NYC only has about 1 licensed cab per 630 residents. Of course, there are heaps of unmarked, aka “gypsy” cabs, there too. And I’ll bet the ratio in Manhattan is much smaller. Also, of course, non car owners have many more options in NYC than in either Seattle or Vancouver.
Fish out of water
Taxis – much to be done in Seattle. Not sure that I agree that the current Seattle taxis – old police cars that get – at best, 11 mpg – are a good environmental choice, especially when taxis are about as reliable and efficient – timewise – as Seattle buses. Initially, Seattle’s Climate Action Plan committed to awarding 10 new taxi medallions if the taxis were fuel efficient – what happened to that?And quoting from the Mayor’s Green Ribbon Commission Report on Climate Protection (March 2006): “The City, the Port of Seattle, King County and taxi companies should agree on a better regional approach to regulating taxis to reduce the amount of ‘deadheading.’ . . when the agencies restrict taxi licenses to either deliver or pick up passengers from certain sites, such as the airport: one part of the round trip is completed without passengers.” How smart is that – and has anything changed?