|Paul Gillespie, former president of Former SF Taxi Commission|
It’s a crisp spring morning in San Francisco, and Mayor Gavin Newsom is standing in front of a row of taxi cabs lined up at City Hall. He points to the TV camera and says, “To Mayor Bloomberg, I say we beat you on this.” He gestures to the taxis, each either a fuel-efficient hybrid or natural gas vehicle. “The Big Apple is not the green apple yet."
Indeed, San Francisco succeeded in greening its taxi fleet—which is now 55 percent hybrid or powered by clean-burning natural gas—where New York City failed even to approach San Francisco’s level.
Before you imagine this game of environmental one-upmanship is strictly between big city mayors, consider this: the man who arguably deserves the most credit for reducing the San Francisco taxi fleet’s carbon footprint—by a whopping 35,000 tons per year—is a 53-year-old rank-and-file taxi driver named Paul Gillespie. Gillespie’s efforts serve as an object lesson in how real environmental change gets done—not by politicians politicking but by grassroots hard work, consensus building, and levelheaded thinking.
The story begins 13 years ago, when former Mayor Willie Brown established a taxi task force to look at all issues facing San Francisco’s cabbies. The task force recommended the creation of an official Taxi Commission, with one of the seven seats allocated to a working driver. Gillespie raised his hand and was chosen. “I was just a regular guy who got himself appointed to this position where I had a chance to get things done,” Gillespie recalled. Read entire article>>