New York City’s Green Taxi Program Red Lighted By Federal Judge

  • Published on November 2nd, 2008

A federal judge has stopped Mayor Bloomberg‘s attempt to clean up the air in New York City by using fuel-efficient hybrid taxis.

[social_buttons] The judge, Paul A. Crotty, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, issued a 26-page ruling (PDF) to stop the city from enforcing the rule because, he said in a written order, the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in a key legal argument — that only the federal government has the right to set fuel efficiency standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, which bars state and local governments from setting their own, competing standards.

The hybrid-cab requirement was the centerpiece of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 package of environmental initiatives. It required all new taxicabs to be fuel-efficient hybrids and that all yellow cabs would be green by 2012. The initiative which would have started on Nov 1, specifically required a new cab coming in to service to get 25 miles per gallon, and the following year the standard would be 30 miles per gallon.

The standard yellow cab gets about 14 miles per gallon. Considering there are about 13,000 cabs in NYC and only about one-thousand of them are hybrids, this could’ve had a large positive effect on the city’s pollution.

Bloomberg said he was “very disappointed” and blasted the ruling for relying on “archaic Washington regulations” that keep New York and other cities “from choosing to create cleaner air.” He said the city was exploring options to appeal.

The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade — they represent about a quarter of they city’s taxis —  sued to block the enforcement. They argued only federal government could impose such restrictions, not the city’s Taxicab & Limousine Commission. They also noted that Hybrid’s aren’t safe enough to use as cabs.

“Millions of people who ride taxicabs and the thousands of drivers, owners and other participants in the New York City taxi industry can breathe a sigh of relief today,” Trade association president Ron Sherman said in approval of the decision..

“Greening the taxi fleet is a major priority, and we are going to use every mechanism at our disposal to make New York a cleaner, healthier city,” Bloomberg vowed.

Hopefully Yahoo doesn’t mind donating a few more of those green cabs…

Image source: Yodel Anecdotal on Flickr

About the Author

is a web developer, part-time blogger, and a full-time environmentalist. His crusade for all things eco started twenty years ago when he ditched his meat-and-potatoes upbringing for something more vegetarian-shaped. His passions include cooking, green tech, eco politics, and smart green design. And while he doesn't own a car anymore, he loves to write about those too. Jerry studied at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. During his time there he was a DJ at the campus station KCPR and he also wrote for the campus paper. Jerry currently resides in San Francisco, CA with his cat Lola. You can stalk him on Twitter @jerryjamesstone.


  • if NYC can't regulate Taxi efficiency, can they regulate by noise standards? Hybrids are very quiet, they could

    specify that only Hybrid or Electric cabs can be operated in quiet zones (Residential neighborhoods, near major hotels, near hospitals) from say 10PM to 8 AM

    sure would put a strong lean towards hybrids as the gas cabs would lose a lot of business.

  • It is just example why Federal regulations should be in place. It is a lot of things behind the scene. Main problem that there is no built and tested “green” vehicle for taxi yet. Being exposed 20-24 hour on the roads taxi’s accident rate is much higher than for other vehicles. Accidents with small size and light “green” cars, which loaded with heavy batteries, may cause fire and heavy injuries (It was few problems in NYC as far as I know). Installed partitions in small vehicles may change the effect if Air Bags deployment, making them a killer. Thousands other big and small issues to consider before making decision to replace the vehicle.
    Recent taxi fleet based on Ford Crown Victoria – good looking powerful and safe traditional car specifically designed and tested for harsh conditions. It is roomy car with heavy frame. Passengers feel comfortable, relaxed and safe inside. Taxi is the first that catch the eye and feeling of the city for everybody who visits it. Taxi ride on CroVic much more expensive as to compare to the Corolla 93 taxi hired while on Mexico vacation, but you know what you are paying for. Live in Boston is expensive but insured, why taxi should be cheap?
    Boston taxi vehicle purchased, owned and insured by company who has medallion or license to operate. Insurance is one of the biggest expense. And it is liability insurance only – if you are at fault, repair your vehicle at your expense (It may be not bad arrangement to promote safety). To operate as a taxi, vehicle requires modifications which may affect safety. Manufactures of “greens” will void the warranty for modified vehicle, insurance companies will not insure vehicle which was not built and tested for application, or modified. Or they may want much higher premiums.
    Because taxi does not have “comprehensive” insurance, dealer or bank does not finance the purchase and it always acquired for cash. All repairs and replacement of lost vehicle, if operator is at fault, are for cash as well. How can the driver/owner afford $40k vehicle without finance, and how he can operate $40k vehicle without “comprehansive” insurance?
    I do not know who you are – the reader, but I know that if you get injured by taxi as a passenger, or while operating other vehicle, the first thing you will do, you will call emergency, and the second you will call your lawyer and insurance. Who do you want will pay all huge bills and settlements? Car manufacture? Driver/Owner? Or City? May be the City – they commanded, but I do not think they have it in mind. And what charges do you expect while you hire the “green” taxi. Should they cover risks involved?
    We live in the society with insured risks. We insure life, houses, cars, flights, health, money. It cost a lot, but it gives us peace in mind. It is one of the best ideas which really works in USA and many others advanced capitalistic countries. I do not think it is time to do mess of it.
    It is definitely a lot of things with taxi behind the scene and if every City in USA will rush to implement their ideas, who will be in trouble first? It is a passenger, as well as everybody else. Hard to predict.
    And this is why we need to be very careful in substitution of the Federal regulations with regulations invented by local authorities in regards to the vehicle allowed for taxi use (in many other regards as well). In this particular case and time local authorities may not be strong enough to implement change right and creating suitable vehicle may require Fed involvement and coordination.
    We need clean air, we need to save on gas. But we need to have it done right.

  • what california can set their own smog requirements but other states can't set their own fuel efficiency requirements? that makes no sense at all.

  • Why don't they just control the co2 emissions for cabs instead? They can achieve the same results by setting the Co2 output per 100 miles equal to that of a hybrid if setting fuel standards for the cabs is illegal, which I don't believe it is. The City Commissions and Licenses cabs, which means that the City has the right to regulate this business. Which means that to receive a license, the city can mandate standards, including fuel efficiency. This needs an appeal.

  • This ruling makes no sense at all. The NYC Taxi Commission sets the regulations on the cabs it licenses, not the federal government. And I'm sure the cabs are owned by the Commission, not by the drivers. Thus, it should do as it pleases with the cabs in order to reduce emissions. It's not as if Bloomberg is requiring an industrial plant that the city does not own to reduce pollutants (b/c as noble as that sounds, the federal government should have jurisdiction over that rather than the states or cities). Something definitely smells fishy, and hopefully it'll come out very soon.

  • Adding to my comment above, The best idea would be to give TAX breaks to the cab companies who go green. Try to encourage people into being environmentally friendly by encouraging them. Not by passing laws that force them to be.

  • Everyone has their head up their ass about this "going green" thing. Yeah I know Hybrids help reduce pollution but that does not justify FORCING a cab company to buy the clearly more expensive hybrids.

    To the people supporting Bloomberg's attempt:

    How would you like it if the government forced you to take the bus to work to save mother earth?

    Or the if government limited your water, or electricity use?

  • This is so typical of the red tape. A city tries to implement policies for the people to practice good "green" practices and a judge says no because they don't want competition. STUPID!!

  • California sets its own higher fuel economy standards, so it seems like Crotty's argument has some holes in it when he says that only the fed government can set standards

    Also New York WOULDN'T even be setting its own fuel economy standards, the standard would only apply to taxi cabs… there has to be something else going on here that this article isn't saying

  • "no the state should decide…"

    "no the feds should decide this…"

    "no the city's have local control…"

    if right wing round and round we go, then ashes to ashes we all fall down

    Stop global warming.

  • I'm sad that the NYC taxi fleet won't be going green in the near future, but I'm glad that Bloomberg got shot down.

    Bloomberg is a narcissistic megalomaniac with an overly developed nanny complex. He needed to be put in his place. Sadly, he won't stay there.

  • i think cities should ecourage more companies to advertise on taxicabs and use that money to subsidise cab owners who purchase hybrits. com'on, let capitalism work.

Comments are closed.