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In Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell sang “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone.” This month New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission stepped up to promote hybrid taxi cabs by mandating that after October 2008 all new cabs will have to get at least 25 miles per gallon. The requirement will rise to 30 mpg in fall 2009.
As I celebrated the prospect of a hybrid NYC taxicab fleet, I realized that I didn’t know much about the taxicabs I had been hopping in and out of for the better part of a decade. The shocker for me was getting the news about how bad NYC taxicabs are for the environment. I had thought that living without a car meant my carbon footprint from transportation was negligible. What’s a few taxicab rides a week between friends? But the ugly truth is that the big yellow Crown Vics get truly terrible gas mileage, averaging around 10 miles per gallon, worse than many SUVs.
A hybrid fleet promises to make occasional taxicab riding into the more benign activity I naively assumed it was. Of course, cab companies are already complaining, but the fuel savings from a hybrid Ford Escape cover the additional cost of the cars in about a year. Maybe there’s even reason to hope that more environmentally-minded cab drivers will stop driving like such maniacs?