Wednesday, May 23, 2007

mayor Mike finally listens to me

I have been saying for some time now—most of this millennium, I dare say—that if I were ever elected mayor (fat chance!), one of the first things I would do is require that every new New York City taxi be a hybrid (originally, I meant gas/electric, today I’d like to see plug-in/gas/electric). With the city mandating a maximum three-year lifespan on cabs (in reality, most only make it two), that would mean a completely hybridized fleet by the end of the decade. Imagine the savings in gas. . . and the reductions in pollution and noise!

Hybrids are ideal for the stop-and-start short-haul driving that is the stock-and-trade of city cab traffic (plug-in hybrids would be even more ideal).

But wait, you say, I ain’t climbing into the backseat of no Prius! Well, first off, the Prius’s backseat is roomier than you think (look at this chart), but, more importantly, in a generation (that’s a taxi generation—three years), if not less, that Prius is going to be replaced by a car that will make you forget you ever had a fondness for the Ford Crown Victorias that make up most of the fleet today. (Do you have a fondness for that car? Really?) Don’t forget, the Crown Vic Stretch was designed and built specifically to win the certification of the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission. . . and so, the business that would result from a certification. Mandate that New York taxicabs have to be hybrids, publish the specs, and watch as the automotive world suddenly learns how to make a bigger, better hybrid. A move by New York would incentivize innovation and force improvements in hybrid automobile technology, and those improvements could easily make inroads (no pun intended) into the rest of the civil and the consumer markets.

So, it is on this occasion (rare though it may be) that I take the opportunity to congratulate New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for finally getting with the program (my program) and requiring that the entire fleet of New York City cabs be gas/electric hybrids by 2012.

Do I think that’s two years longer than anyone needs? Yes. Would I have rather he said hybrids by 2010, plug-in hybrids by 2012? Sure. Do I think he could do even more to push the automotive industry with additional requirements for NYC cabs? You bet. Do I wish that he would also move to severely reduce the number of medallions any single company can own, and make more provisions to safeguard the cabbies that might be forced to pay for part of this conversion? Absolutely. But the road is made by walking, and this a very good first step. (OK, not the perfect metaphor, here. Sorry.)

Bloomberg, aspirations for higher office or no, is doing a lot lately to make his legacy a green one. If only his attitude toward real estate development wasn’t all about that other green. Then maybe all of this city’s residents would be in clover.

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