(Adds detail from news conference)
By Edith Honan
NEW YORK May 22 New York City's famed yellow
taxi cabs will go green within five years under a plan that
could serve as a model for other large cities, Mayor Michael
Bloomberg announced on Tuesday.
He said 1,000 hybrid taxis -- powered by gasoline and
electricity -- would be introduced by October 2008, and that
hybrids would gradually replace the rest of the city's 13,000
taxi cabs by 2012.
New York already has 375 hybrid taxis on the road, more
than any other U.S. city, Bloomberg said.
"It will be the largest, cleanest fleet of taxis anywhere
on the planet," Bloomberg said.
"And because taxis are so heavily used, the new standard
will have the equivalent effect of removing 30,000
individually-owned gas-powered vehicles from our streets."
Hybrid vehicles are powered by a combination of gasoline
and electricity, and they emit less exhaust and have better gas
mileage than other vehicles. The plan, which is based on new
mileage and emission standards for cabs, will reduce the carbon
emissions of New York City's fleet by 50 percent during the
next decade, Bloomberg said.
While hybrid cars are generally more expensive, Bloomberg
said the plan would save cab drivers more than $10,000 per year
in gasoline and other expenses.
The cab initiative is part of a larger push by Bloomberg to
make New York a more environmentally friendly city. Earlier
this year, he pledged a 30 percent reduction in carbon
emissions by 2030.
"New Yorkers are exposed to some of the dirtiest air in the
nation," Louise Vetter, president of the American Lung
Association of the City of New York, told the news conference.
"Putting more clean cabs on New York City streets is an
important step in our fight to improve air quality, especially
for the 1 million asthmatics in our city," she said.
SUPPORT FROM CABBIES
Taxi drivers, too, showed their support for the plan.
"I think that anyone who lives, works in this city should
support the plan," said Fernando Mateo, spokesman for the New
York Federation of Taxi Drivers. He added, though, that the
program would have to be expanded to include livery cabs, which
provide regulated for-hire car service.
While people in Manhattan rely heavily on taxi cabs, livery
cabs are far more common in poorer areas of the city, including
the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.
But criticism for the plan came from Edith Prentiss of the
Taxis for All Campaign, an organization of handicapped New
Yorkers, who said it was ridiculous that New York would
continue to put cabs on the streets of New York that are
inaccessible to handicapped passengers.
Prentiss, who uses a wheelchair, said hybrid taxis would
not have lifts and were not large enough to fit a wheelchair.