Archive for the ‘Taxi Cabs’ Category

Smelly, battered cab would scare visitors away: A letter to the editor

Published: Monday, August 16, 2010, 1:40 AM

Letters to the Editor

I took an embarrassing and mortifying cab ride from the airport in mid-June. Compared with other cities, some of the cabs servicing Louis Armstrong International Airport are an abomination. To my sister and me, who had been traveling for 18 hours, the cab looked OK from the outside. But inside, it was filthy, smelled terrible, had duct tape on all the arm rests and had no air-conditioning (there was a clip-on fan up front that had an electrical adapter sitting on the front seat). The driver was eating something out of a cup and throwing the leftovers onto the cab floor. 2 0 0Share I had to call three entities before finding the correct organization to which I could complain about this situation: the City of New Orleans Taxicab Bureau, the cab company and then Landside Operations at Louis Armstrong Airport. The cabs servicing the airport represent the first impression that many visitors encounter upon arriving in our wonderful city. If I were a visitor, I would certainly wonder if I were in a Third World country, rather than in one of the greatest cities anywhere. Visitors do not think of a particular cab company or Landside Operations when riding in such a car. They think of the city of New Orleans. And this cab did not make a good impression, I assure you. This taxicab and any others like it should not be picking up any customers, except perhaps representatives from the cab company that operates it, the airport or the taxicab bureau. While New Orleans has many complex problems, this one could easily be remedied. With standards that should already be in place and proper enforcement, all our cabs would welcome visitors, rather than scare them away.

Delia O. Armand



GTC NOLA in City Business!

Tourism chief wants newer, greener cabs; industry insists it’s too expensive

POSTED: 03:31 PM Wednesday, August 4, 2010
BY: Richard A. Webster, Staff Writer
TAGS: Alan Fisher, Green Taxi Co., Ike Spears, London Livery, Mitch Landrieu, National Customer Advisory Council, New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, Stephen Perry

Alan Fisher wants to create New Orleans’ first “green” cab company and in the process expose what he sees as the glaring weaknesses of the city’s existing taxi industry — unprofessional drivers operating broken down vehicles lacking the modern technology commonplace in every major city.

One of the main problems Fisher wants to address is the quality of the city’s cabs. All of Green Taxi Co.’s cars will be new and taken off the road after five years of service, an unheard of policy in the Big Easy, Fisher said.

New Orleans is one of the only major U.S. cities that doesn’t place a limit on the number of years a taxi can operate. City license records indicate there are cabs as old as 30 years operating in New Orleans.

Chicago law requires that cabs be put out of commission after four years. Five years is the limit in Las Vegas, Dallas and Minneapolis, and six years in Houston and Boston.

The National Customer Advisory Council brought the issue to the attention of Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, several years ago.

“They told us as customers who bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the city that we had not only a less-than-acceptable but a relatively poor overall taxi system compared with most of our major competitive set,” Perry said.

Once Mayor Mitch Landrieu gets settled, Perry said he plans to push for uniform standards within the local taxi industry including age limits on vehicles and mandatory driver training to ensure they are educated on the history, culture and attractions of the city.

“We need to raise the standards like we’ve done at the convention center, hotels, restaurants and airport,” Perry said. “We can’t have the entirety of the tourism industry moving forward and this one component in terms of taxis standing still.”

Attorney Ike Spears, who represents several of the city’s cab lines, rejects the idea of vehicle age limits. He says it’s economically unfeasible to demand drivers buy a new car every five years.

“People want our industry to look like San Francisco and New York,” Spears said. “Well, pay us what New York and San Francisco pay their drivers.”

Despite Spears’ assertions, initial fare charges and per-mile rates are comparable among New Orleans, New York and San Francisco, though vehicle leasing fees and gasoline surcharges may differ.

Spears doesn’t deny the taxi cab industry could be improved but is adamant it can’t be done by outsiders legislating changes.

“I don’t think they fully understand the nuts and bolts of what the taxi cab drivers go through on a day-to-day basis to try and make ends meet,” he said. “It’s a low-margin game. Most of these guys are self-employed trying to support themselves and their families.

“Everyone wants the industry to be better and more reflective of a positive experience for the tourists. But everybody also wants to be able to make a living to go home and support their families at the end of the day.”

As for the need for a green cab company, Spears doesn’t see it.

“I don’t think the guy catching a taxi cab from work to home is looking to see if the car is green or the company is green,” he said.

The Green Taxi Co. would consist of a fleet of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. The fleet would average 35 miles per gallon compared with 15 mpg for standard cabs and save an estimated $2 million in fuel costs annually, said Fisher, former owner of London Livery, a 25-year-old limousine service destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The drivers, called “ambassadors,” would be trained according to London taxi system standards, which Fisher calls the “best and most professional in the world.”

Perry said one of the most frequent questions he fields from convention planners determining whether they want to come to the city is what type of green initiatives are in place.

“I can’t tell you what a huge selling plus it is,” he said. “Right now they’re giving New Orleans a little bit of grace because of Katrina. But it’s a real weakness and one we hope to address soon.”

Fisher is trying to do his part and said he has enough investors lined up to have his vehicles on the road by early 2011. But nearly all of the city’s 1,640 taxi licenses have been distributed. To purchase an existing permit, Fisher would have to pay up to $30,000.

He plans to petition the City Council to increase the number of taxi licenses or create a separate category for “green” taxis, two moves the cab industry is vehemently against.

But Fisher has Perry firmly in his corner, and the city’s top tourism official says the time is now to move the industry into a more environmentally conscious and innovative direction.

“There’s no question this will be a hard issue to resolve and it will be politically sensitive,” Perry said. “But we all need to come to the table and create a master plan and a target date. It cannot be overestimated what a powerful line of ambassadors taxi drivers can be either for the good or negative.”•

Hybrid Taxis Give Fuel Economy a Lift

April 2009

Fleet Experiences

Hybrid Taxis Give Fuel Economy a Lift

Whole Foods received advertising rights for sponsoring Cambridge’s hybrid taxi

Hybrid Taxis Give Fuel Economy a Lift, Clean Cities, Fleet Experiences, April 2009 (Fact Sheet)

Most people recognize the classic yellow-and-black taxicab, but some taxis are adopting a new color—green. Clean Cities helped Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and San Antonio, Texas, create hybrid taxi programs that cut gasoline use and air pollution while pleasing drivers and passengers alike.

Better Mileage, Cleaner Air

Each year, taxis average 55,000 miles of driving. Most are Ford Crown Victorias, with a city fuel economy of about 16 miles per gallon (mpg). In contrast, the hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) most commonly used as taxis do much better: The Toyota Prius gets 48 mpg in the city, the Ford Escape 34 mpg, and the Toyota Camry 33 mpg. Boston CleanAir CABS founder John Moore estimates that switching the entire Boston fleet of 1,900 taxis to HEVs would save about 5 million gallons of gasoline annually. In addition, hybrid taxis reduce smog-forming and green­house gas emissions, as well as create a green image for a city. “Taxis and taxi drivers are often the first spaces and people visitors see when they come to a city,” says the Boston Environment Department’s Jim Hunt. “They can be your best ambassadors.”

Three Avenues to Success

In addition to an up to $3,000 federal tax credit that helps offset the incremental costs of a hybrid taxi, Boston’s CleanAir CABS program offers two major incentives for operators and owners to run hybrid taxis. HEV drivers get two “front of the line” passes for each airport shift, allowing them to fit in two extra trips daily. Hybrid taxi owners who lease vehicles to drivers can charge drivers $15 more per shift to lease a taxi, enabling an owner to earn more than $5,000 annually. The program calculates that an owner will save $20,000 per HEV over six years. Twenty months after the program started, about 50 hybrid taxis were on Boston’s streets. The voluntary program proved so successful that Boston instituted a mandatory program requiring all taxis to be clean air cabs by 2015. Compressed natural gas taxis also qualify for this program.

Cambridge started its hybrid taxi program in partnership with Whole Foods grocery stores. In exchange for exclu­sive, three-year rights to display advertisements on the taxis, Whole Foods made six donations of $5,000 toward the purchase of six HEVs. The city provided an additional $10,000 per vehicle, using funds from the auction of two taxi medallions. Although Whole Foods is no longer pro­viding grants, the city continues to do so. As of March 2009, the program has resulted in 15 hybrid taxis.

San Antonio’s program issues an additional taxi permit for each conventional vehicle replaced with an HEV. To prevent one fleet from obtaining all the permits, the larg­est company is allowed to replace only 1% of its fleet each year (six vehicles), while smaller companies can replace up to two vehicles. As of 2008, more than 70 of the city’s 843 taxis were HEVs. In fact, the statewide Texas Green & Go Clean Taxi Partnership has built off the San Antonio program’s success.

Lessons Learned

Leaders of the Boston, Cambridge, and San Antonio hybrid taxi programs learned several lessons that can help other cities institute successful programs.

Bring People Together

Creating taxi programs requires cooperation among busi­nesses and government agencies such as the city hackney or licensing division, city public health commission, city environmental department, state energy office, and port authority. Clean Cities coalitions can bring together stakeholder and provide “champions” to coordinate them.

It is important to involve taxi company representatives and drivers from the beginning to earn their buy-in and identify the most appropriate incentives. In San Antonio, even owners who initially opposed the program have adopted HEVs, partly because the program encouraged open dialogue.

Understand the Business

Understanding a city’s taxi structure is essential. Some cit­ies, such as New York and Boston, license taxis via medal­lions, which are limited in number and have significant property value. In contrast, cities with permit systems can easily change the number of taxis, but the permits do not carry the same financial weight. The relationship between drivers and companies also varies. Some companies own vehicles and have drivers rent them, whereas drivers act as independent contractors for other companies.

Know What Drivers Need

Drivers are more likely to buy into incentive programs if they know the benefits of HEVs. For drivers, fuel cost sav­ings are paramount. Some hybrid taxi drivers report cut­ting fuel costs by more than half. Drivers also like that HEVs improve customer satisfaction. “People like it because it’s green,” says James Christie, a Boston HEV driver. Some drivers report receiving larger tips when driving HEVs, and companies receive special customer requests for HEVs.

However, some drivers do find the size of HEVs challeng­ing with the trunk space limiting how much luggage—and thus how many passengers—they can carry. This depends in part on driver experience and vehicle model. Paul Lex, San Antonio’s first hybrid taxi driver, says he can fit as many as five bags in his Prius’ trunk, whereas some other drivers can fit only two. Some HEVs, such as the Escape, have more trunk space than the Prius.

Know What Owners Need

Because drivers pay for fuel, taxi company owners don’t profit from lower gasoline use, but they do benefit from greater driver satisfaction. Companies in Boston and San Antonio report having waiting lists of drivers eager to use HEVs. “If I try to take them away, it’s like pulling teeth,” says Miguel Constancio, operations manager at San Antonio Yellow Cab.

Owners also benefit from the longevity of HEVs. Most Crown Victorias in taxi service are used police vehicles. In Boston, these vehicles can be used for only three years before being replaced, but the city allows hybrid taxis to be used for up to six years. HEVs also can require fewer repairs. Cambridge driver George Fiorenza estimates he had to replace his Crown Victoria every 18 months, compared with the decade he expects to get out of his HEV. Lex says his HEV still had 30% of its brake pads left at 130,000 miles because of the regenerative braking system.

High initial cost is the biggest hurdle for owners. HEVs cost $25,000 to $30,000, compared with $7,000 for the used Crown Victoria with a “police package.” Ongoing costs are also a concern. The CleanAir CABS program estimates that most HEV drivers will replace the $7,000 battery once during the vehicle’s lifetime. Although HEVs might require less maintenance than conventional taxis overall, some repairs can be more costly. They may require expensive parts and servicing at a dealership or special equipment and training for in-house maintenance staff. Collision insurance payments also can increase because HEVs generally are worth more than conventional taxis.

For more information about Clean Cities visit

For More Information

Visit the Boston CleanAir CABS Web site at, and contact George Fiorenza of Cambridge’s Ambassador Brattle Cab Company (

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Vehicle Technologies Program

Green Taxi Cabs Gaining Ground Coast to Coast

Green Taxi Cabs Gaining Ground Coast to Coast
News by Sierra Club
(February 23, 2009) in Money / The Recession
I don’t take a lot of taxis, but I admit that when I do hop in a cab, speed and convenience are my motivation, not my carbon footprint. So I perked up while walking through downtown San Francisco this week when a Green Cab zipped by, sporting a spiffy green-and-white paint job and a checkered logo.

The company was founded in 2007 by eight veteran cabbies who were tired of getting pathetically low gas mileage in their company-issued cars. Green Cab is still a small outfit but the hybrids comprising the worker-owned company’s modest fleet get 40-plus miles to the gallon.

“The gas savings could put a lot more in your pocket,” Green Cab co-founder Mark Gruberg told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There are two principles we feel most strongly about—having a driver-run company and having an environmentally responsible company. It seems like this is really coming together at the right moment.”

San Francisco, Seattle, and New York have all been pursuing measures to green their taxi fleets, such as requiring that taxi companies purchase only alternative-fuel, hybrid, or high-mileage vehicles when replacing retired cabs. Chicago and Boston have also announced plans to green their fleets in the near future. Every three years, San Francisco’s entire fleet of cabs—which numbered 1,350 when Green Cab was founded—turns over.

According to the Cleantech Venture Network, North America’s nearly 200,000 taxis drive about 10 times more than regular passenger cars. Switching to hybrids will save cab drivers an average $1,200 to $1,500 per month on fuel. Cleantech has launched an initiative to convert taxis to hybrids, which could save $50 billion in fuel costs over a decade.

A little web surfing reveals that green cab companies are sprouting like spring wildflowers. Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago, Dallas, and Detroit all have green taxi companies, as do many smaller cities like Burlington, Vt., Arlington, Va., and Charleston, S.C. Google “green cab,” plus the name of your city, to find out whether there’s an environmentally friendly taxi outfit where you live or are traveling to.
— Tom Valtin

Taxis Go From Yellow to Green

Intelligent Travel

Taxis Go From Yellow to Green



on October 24, 2008 10:00 AM | Comments (2)

Photo: Hybrid Taxis

Toyota Prius hybrids from Iowa City’s Black and Gold Cab Company

Cities across the U.S. are making a fashion statement that seems to be catching on–green is the new yellow. Taxis in many major cities are becoming more environmentally friendly by switching to low-emission vehicles. By taking this leap, taxis, which are the ultimate offenders of continuous stop-and-go traffic, will vastly decrease their contribution of carbon emissions on the road.

After reading a post from our friends at Inhabitat about Boston taxis recently taking the initiative to go green, we decided to see what other cities were making the same effort to decrease their carbon tire track.  What we found was a spread of cities and individuals offering green transportation to those in need, including locals and travelers abroad.

Arlington, VA – Introduced to the greater Washington area as  “the first carbon-neutral [taxi] fleet in the U.S.” earlier this year, EnviroCab offers only environmentally friendly vehicles to its customers. They even go the extra mile by offsetting their carbon emissions and then some in an effort to be the first carbon-negative taxi service in the world.

Boston – A major part of the overall plan to improve the city’s taxi system, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino calls for all taxis to be replaced by hybrids within seven years.  Along with these efforts to go green, the plan also requires drivers to install credit card machines and bars the wearing of sweatpants and T-shirts on the job (which isn’t exactly green, but hey, it’s something).

Chicago – Here, the transition to hybrids started with the help of a little green friend, Kermit the Frog. In an energy campaign launched by Ford Motor Company, a fleet of Ford Escape Hybrids, featuring the car’s spokesfrog Kermit, are providing green taxi services in Chicago.

Denver – Metro Taxi, Denver’s largest taxi service, offers a number of Toyota Prius hybrids to its customers.  Taking the term quite literally, these taxis are identifiable by their green paint jobs. But you shouldn’t take the green for granted, as more recently, the Yellow Cab Company of Denver also started to
offer hybrid cabs.

Iowa City Chris Griffin initially bought two Toyota Prius hybrids this year because of their impressive gas mileage. An added bonus: they have more legroom than his older taxis. Now he is happy to note that customers and drivers alike are glad to go green. The Black and Gold Cab Company, although operating on a smaller level than our other major cities, is proud to be a part of the green auto movement.

Key West, FL – Forget yellow and green, Five Sixes Taxi Dispatch switched to hybrid vehicles while keeping its signature pink paint job. The company plans to make its entire pink fleet green by March 2009.

New York City Last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his plan to make all New York City taxis green by 2012.  The five-year move to fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles is a part of his overall plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the city. The plan is well on its way for the approximately 13,000 taxis who call New York streets their home, athough the city recently hit a bump in its acquisition of hybrids.

San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas – Several taxi companies in these cities are taking part in the Green & Go Green Taxi Partnership established by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The partnership promotes and assists the conversion to cleaner emissions technology. Look for taxis featuring a Green & Go logo.

San Francisco – A pioneer in the switch to low-emission vehicles, the Bay City has offered green taxis to its visitors and residents for several years now. Green Cab, at the forefront of this movement, is a worker-owned company providing a fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles and high-mileage hybrids.

Seattle – The city council of Seattle took steps to help the environment by requiring all new taxis to get 30 miles to the gallon by 2013.

Outside the U.S., taxi services in cities like Dubai, London, Sydney, and Vancouver are also transitioning to hybrids. The changeover seems to be more than a temporary trend. Both drivers and customers seem to enjoy the environmental benefits and long-term financial advantages of low-emission vehicles.

Know of any other cities or taxicab services going green? Let us know.

Photo: courtesy of Chris Griffin

San Francisco: Yellow taxis turn green

The taxi cabs in San Francisco, USA, take the lead in the struggle for a better environment. Today, more than half of the city’s taxis are hybrid vehicles or run on compressed natural gas. The objective is clear: by 2012, the city’s taxi operators must reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by 20% in relation to 1990 levels. And the proportion of environment-friendly taxis is rapidly increasing. The initiative is not just good for the environment, but also for the drivers’ purses.

The Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, praises the city’s green taxi programme, which has been a great success so far. A new milestone has been reached: 57% of the city’s taxis are now hybrid vehicles or run on CNG (compressed natural gas). The city passed legislation in 2008, giving the taxi companies four years to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by 20% in relation to 1990 levels. They have already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 12%.

Many people expressed concern when the legislation was presented. Wouldn’t maintenance costs be high, wouldn’t passengers have to suffer limited leg space and would the batteries last for the vehicles’ lifespan? But San Francisco has already more than 700 hybrid taxis on its streets and until now, none of the above problems have arisen. In 2005, 15 hybrid taxis, all of them Ford Escapes, began operating on trial in San Francisco. The cars have now driven around 300,000 km. They are fast approaching the pension age for taxis and will soon be taken off the road – but not because they cannot run any more. Their lifespan demonstrates that hybrid technology is much more tenable than previously assumed.

The new hybrid taxi in San Francisco, Ford Escape. Otzberg, July 30  2006, Flickr Creative Commons.

The new hybrid taxi in San Francisco, Ford Escape. Otzberg, July 30 2006, Flickr Creative Commons.

Hybrid cars are ideal for the environment. Not only do they go further on a litre of gasoline/petrol than ordinary gas vehicles, they also emit far less CO2. The cars do especially well at low speeds and when standing still, which makes them especially relevant as city taxis. The most common taxi in San Francisco, the Ford Crown Victoria, only does about 5-6 km on a litre (12-14 mpg) in the city, says Taxi and Limousine Organisation spokesman Allan Fromberg. “It certainly doesn’t have a reputation for being fuel-efficient,” he says. A hybrid taxi like the Ford Escape, which runs on a combination of gasoline/petrol and battery power, does about 14-15 km on a litre (34 mpg).

The green vehicles do not just benefit the environment but the taxi companies’ bottom line as well. The experimental cars in San Francisco have saved their drivers/owners about USD 9000 a year in gasoline/petrol, depending to some extent on fuel prices and the number of shifts.
In addition to this, the cars’ brakes require less maintenance and some of the hybrid models are cheaper to buy than the traditional Crown Victoria.

“For the taxi drivers it is just as much a question of the money in their pocket as the green and the environment,”

Fromberg adds.

And the future looks bright for San Francisco’s environment-friendly taxis. Car manufacturers Ford, Nissan and General Motors have all promised to make a larger number of hybrid cars specially designed for use as taxis. Together with New York’s taxi drivers, who have introduced a similar programme, the companies have had to fight for those cars that are manufactured. The Mayor of San Francisco also has a new demonstration project on the drawing board which, in addition to hybrid cars, will also promote electric taxis. The warm reception that has been given to the environment-friendly taxis seems to indicate that they are an advantage to the taxi drivers, the people of San Francisco as well as the environment.