Frustrated by exorbitant gas prices, Kwame Corsi, a taxi driver from the Bronx, had been waiting years for the chance to drive a hybrid car. In New York, where 93 percent of the city's cabs are Crown Victorias (large Ford models that guzzle a gallon every twelve miles), drivers like Corsi often pay up to $100 dollars a day on fuel. Up until last week, New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission had refused to grant medallions for hybrid taxis.
Now, thanks to the City Council's unanimous decision to approve the "Clean Air Taxis Act
," Corsi will get his wish and New Yorkers will literally breathe easier. New York, which was ranked by the American Lung Association as one of America's most polluted cities in 2004, suffers from the highest asthma mortality rate in the country. But under the new law, which will put hybrids on the street by this fall, the harmful emissions spewed out by New York's fleet of 13,000 cabs will be dramatically reduced. According to the Sierra Club, hybrids are particularly well-suited for New York City, because the greatest difference in emissions from hybrids comes under conditions of slow traffic and idling.
"The New York yellow taxi is an American icon. What better way to showcase a great solution to our air pollution and oil dependence problems?" said Mark Izeman of the NRDC in a press release from the Coalition Advocating for Smart Transportation (CAST), a group that has been at the forefront of the fight for green cabs in New York City.
New York's high profile win is the latest in a string of victories for the "Green Fleets" movement. A few weeks ago, legislators in Charlotte, NC voted to hybridize the city's municipal fleet, and Denver, Seattle, and Madison have also made strides in converting their fleets to green.
As is increasingly the case, cities across the country are making progressive strides in the face of an obstinate administration that refuses to declare its independence from oil. It's time to tell Congress to seriously invest in a clean energy plan. Take action by supporting the Apollo Alliance and clicking here to send a letter to your Senators and Congressmen.
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.
© 2005 The Nation