New York’s Hope for Green Taxis Act of 2011

Posted: April 9, 2011 in Community, Health, Multimedia, New York City

Known for his health conscious and environmentally friendly policies such as the smoking ban and MillionTreesNYC, Mayor Bloomberg has taken one of his earthly plans a step further into bloom.

On March 28, Bloomberg, Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Congressman Jerrold Nadler proposed the Green Taxis Act of 2011, which would allow local governments to regulate fuel economy and emission standards for taxis.

There are currently 13,237 taxis in New York City, but only 4,500 of those are green.

“The goal is to correct an error that prevents clean air statutes from actually cleaning air,” according to Allan Fromberg, Deputy Commissioner for Public Affairs at the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. “What it would mean to drivers is lower operating expenses, but what it would mean to the city and the world is less dependence on foreign oil, and a more breathable city for us and our children.”

“This [bill] is good for improving the air quality at the street level, reducing our dependence on oil and for addressing the biggest problem our planet is facing, which is climate change,” said Mark Izeman, Natural Resources Defense Council member , who was in attendance when the bill was announced. Izeman stated that hybrids can reduce conventional pollutants by as much as 90% over a regular car.

“Hybrids also have less pollutants coming out of the tailpipe, which means that if you’re walking down the street, or you live near roads, you’re going to be breathing less pollution coming out of cars,” Izeman said.

Air pollution can cause serious harm to the lungs. According to the American Lung Association, air pollution can directly harm lung tissue and weaken the body’s defenses. Coughing, wheezing, increased asthma attacks and premature death are some of the effects pollutants can have on those exposed.

“Of course we are interested in the driver. The drivers should be the ones that benefit from driving these hybrid cabs,” said Bill Lindauer, Campaigns Coordinator at the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.

Bill Lindauer was a taxi driver for more than 30 years and works at the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, an organization that is the equivalent of a union group. Lindauer said because taxi drivers are considered independent contractors and not employees of the City of New York, the NYTWA is equal to a union group.

Even though Lindauer doesn’t deny the health benefits of green taxis, the reality of a dramatic transition isn’t easy. The majority of taxis cannot become green overnight as they must complete their life expectancy; recharging cars is virtually nonexistent (the first-and currently only- solar –powered electric vehicle charging station in the city). Lindauer also said since hybrid taxis have only been around for about five years, their reliability has not been proven.

“Hybrids cost more, initially. Sometimes there are tax incentives to purchase them, but they can vary,” Lindauer said.

Elizabeth Wood, of Vernon, NJ, drives a hybrid and believes that the vehicles reduce the amount of air pollution.

“Besides the fact that I get 35 to 42 miles per gallon, it stops running totally when I stop at stop lights or if I’m in line with something,” Wood said, “because there are a lot of idle emissions that happen in the air when you’re stopping your car- even if you’re not going. So I love it. I’m a hybrid pusher.”

Izeman said that this bill is significant to New York City and the world, as the yellow taxi is “an icon in movies and easily recognizable.”

“Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases coming out of 13,000 taxis won’t solve all the problems in the world,” Izeman said. “But it will send a signal to other cities and even internationally that we need to take action at the local level to address climate change.”

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