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.”