Climate Change Bill would Allow Boston to Regulate Taxicab Standards
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For Immediate Release
October 01, 2009
Released By:
Mayor's Office
For More Information Contact:
Press Office

Mayor Menino Praises Lawmakers for Standing up in Support of Greener, Cleaner and more Cost Efficient Taxi Fleets

After a July Federal Court ruling that overturned a City of Boston regulation requiring hybrid taxi fleets, Congress has stepped up in support of Cities in proposing the Green Taxis Act of 2009, which would allow local governments to regulate fuel economy and emissions standards for taxicabs. The Act would amend the Federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) and the Federal Clean Air Act (CAA), and is part of a comprehensive climate change bill that was introduced on Wednesday.

"Hybrid taxis make sense for taxi drivers, for consumers and for the health of all Bostonians," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "Hybrid vehicles are 70 percent more efficient than conventional taxis, significantly reducing operating costs and vehicle emissions. I applaud our Congressional leaders for their work to remove this barrier in the law and bring more fuel efficient, cost effective cabs to cities across the country."

In addition to Boston, efforts to clean up taxicabs have been shot down in New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. The Green Taxis Act was authored by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, and is part of the larger climate change bill introduced by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and California Senator Barbara Boxer.

"This legislation will help empower cities and towns across the nation, including Boston, to improve air quality, lower carbon emissions and save cab drivers and passengers money," said Senator Kerry. "We know we must reinvent the way America uses energy and once again Boston is leading the way."

Under current law, local officials may not establish fuel economy and emissions standards for vehicles. If the proposed legislation is passed, Boston and other cities would be given such permission for taxicabs.

The typical two-year-old Ford Crown Victoria taxi operates at an average fuel economy of ten miles per gallon (MPG) and travels a staggering 110,000 miles per year, according to analysis of Boston's taxi fleet. A typical passenger vehicle travels an average of 15,000 miles per year. In stark contrast, a new Toyota Camry Hybrid is 70 percent more efficient, receiving 34 MPG. Assuming fuel costs of $2.50 a gallon, individual drivers would save more than $17,000 annually on fuel costs by switching to these more efficient hybrid vehicles.

"Boston deserves a 21st century, energy-efficient taxi fleet," said George Bachrach, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. "We applaud Mayor Menino's leadership and his unwillingness to back down to a minority of taxi owners who are on the wrong side of history. Senator Kerry's federal energy legislation would allow Boston, New York and other enlightened cities to enact sensible regulations that protect clean air and lower our carbon footprint."

In addition to environmental and economical benefits, greener taxis can help improve health. Fuel efficient taxicabs would emit considerably less nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons, both of which can cause lung tissue damage and aggravate asthma symptoms. The local air quality benefits are also significant; converting to green taxicabs would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 66,000 tons per year, thus avoiding the release of tons of smog-forming pollution and particulate matter into the air.

A taxicab is defined as a vehicle that meets five criteria: 1) it can carry a maximum of 10 passengers 2) it must be commercially available or manufactured specifically for a contract 3) it must be operated for hire pursuant to an operating or regulatory license, permit, or other authorization 4) it must provide local transportation for a fare determined on the basis of time, distance, or a combination of the two 5) it must not provide transportation exclusively to and from airports.

The City of Boston established a regulation in August 2008 requiring all taxicabs be hybrid by 2015. Officials expected more than half of the fleet would be hybrid within two years. A US District Court judge ruled that the mandate had infringed on the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975. Today, only 15 percent of Boston taxis are hybrid.

The current bill would give the Boston Police Department the authority to re-issue the 2008 regulation that requires taxicabs to meet local fuel economy and emissions standards.

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