New cab law could mean cleaner air for NYC

Known for his health conscious and environmentally friendly policies such as the smoking ban and MillionTreesNYC, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken one of his earthly plans a step further into bloom.

The Mayor proposed the Green Taxis Act last month, which would allow local governments to regulate fuel economy and emission standards for New York City cabs.

There are more than 13,000 taxis citywide, yet only 4,500 of those are green.

“The goal is to correct an error that prevents clean air statutes from actually cleaning air,” to Allan Fromberg, Deputy Commissioner for Public Affairs at the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. “What it would mean to drivers is lower operating expenses, but what it would mean to the city and the world is less dependence on foreign oil, and a more breathable city for us and our children.”

Mark Izeman, member of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said hybrid cars can reduce conventional pollutants by as much as 90 percent.

“This [bill] is good for improving the air quality at the street level, reducing our dependence on oil and for addressing the biggest problem our planet is facing, which is climate change,” he said. “Hybrids also have less pollutants coming out of the tailpipe, which means that if you’re walking down the street, or you live near roads, you’re going to be breathing less pollution coming out of cars.”

According to the American Lung Association, air pollution can damage lung tissue and cause coughing, wheezing and a host of other side effects.

Long-time taxi driver Bill Lindauer of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance said he doesn’t deny the health benefits of hybrids—but the price to go green is still a big concern.

“Hybrids cost more, initially,” Lindauer said, adding that sometimes there are tax incentives to purchase such cars, yet even these can vary.

Still, Izeman said a bill to improve what he called the iconic yellow cab could mean cleaner air across the country.

“Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases coming out of 13,000 taxis won’t solve all the problems in the world,” Izeman said. “But it will send a signal to other cities and even internationally that we need to take action at the local level to address climate change.”