NEW YORK – After a judge threw a roadblock in front of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's quest to replace every taxicab with a hybrid model, the city is creating financial incentives to get more fuel-efficient cabs on the streets.
Bloomberg set fuel standards last year that would have gradually converted the city's 13,000 yellow cabs into hybrids by 2012, but a federal judge said last month that federal law pre-empted the local regulations.
Bloomberg said Friday that he does not plan to appeal the court's preliminary ruling. Instead, he announced new financial rewards aimed at encouraging taxi fleet owners to replace conventional models with hybrids.
"By offering incentives that will encourage more taxi fleet owners to purchase hybrids, we have found another avenue to reach our goal of greening our yellow cabs, improving our air quality and reducing our carbon emissions," Bloomberg said.
The incentive outlined Friday targets fleet owners. They have been more reluctant to purchase hybrids than individual taxi owners, partly because fleet owners have not directly benefited from the fuel savings that come with hybrid models, Bloomberg said. Fleet owners charge drivers a fee to use their cabs, and the drivers pay for fuel.
Under the new arrangement, the owners can charge drivers $3 more per shift for use of a hybrid, generating up to $2,000 per vehicle each year.
A typical fee, known as a "lease cap fee," now varies from about $105 to $129 for a 12-hour shift.
Even though drivers will pay higher fees for hybrids, the city estimates they will save $15 per shift — or $5,000 a year — because the hybrids consume far less fuel.
The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, which also complains that hybrid vehicles have not been properly time-tested for use as New York City cabs, dismissed the new financial incentives as an "end run" around last month's court ruling.
"Today's attempt to buy off taxi operators and to use backdoor methods to force safe, proven commercial vehicles off the road is wrong and highly challengeable," Ron Sherman, the group's president, said in a statement.
The city also is planning to lower the amount fleet owners can charge drivers who use traditional non-hybrid models, creating a further incentive for the owners to add more fuel-efficient cars to their fleets.
The standard yellow cab in use today, the Ford Crown Victoria, gets about 14 miles per gallon. Some hybrid models, which run on a combination of gasoline and electricity, achieve as much as 36.