Wednesday, February 8, 2012

San Francisco Boasts The Greenest Taxi Fleet In The United States. By John Han.

Paul Gillespie of Yellow Cab and former president of the SF Taxi Commission speaks at
a press conference held at Yellow Cab announcing the taxi industry has
 met its goal to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In the background
from left to right - SF Mayor Ed Lee, Lieutenant Gov. of California and former SF Mayor
Gavin Newsom, and Sal Castaneda, traffic reporter for KTVU News. 

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, taxi industry representatives, and environmental departments announced Wednesday that the City's taxi industry has succeeded in its goal to significantly reduce the industry's greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

The “Green Taxi Ordinance”, that went into effect in 2008, requires San Francisco's taxi industry to bring its GHG emissions down by 20 percent of the levels they were at in 1990. And the law requires that the goal be achieved by 2012.

Mayor Ed Lee spoke at the press conference, saying that in 1990, the average taxi-vehicle in San Francisco emitted 59 tons of GHG emissions per year.

Today, the average taxi is estimated to emit about 30 tons per year, since 92 percent of the Cit's fleet is now made up of hybrids or CNGs (Compressed Natural Gas). That's a reduction of 49%, and is said to make San Francisco's taxis the greenest fleet in the country.

“It is equivalent of taking out some 6,890 cars off the highway on an annual basis,” Lee said, adding that cab drivers combined, save an estimated $11 million in fuel costs per year.

Paul Gillespie.
Paul Gillespie of Yellow Cab, and former president of the San Francisco Taxi Commission, pioneered the shift towards alternative fuel vehicles beginning as far back as 1997.

“I think we're about a third of the way there,” said Gillespie. “We've got a first generation of clean taxis. I think there's going to be a next generation of clean taxis. And hopefully, in a very short period of time, we'll have a zero emission taxi.”

San Francisco taxis spewed out about 70,000 tons of GHG emissions in 1990, according to Gillespie. That was with a total 821 taxis operating that year. By 2007, he says GHG emissions rose to an estimated 110,000 tons per year, as the number of taxis increased over time.

However, Gillespie says that since 2008, after the Green Taxi Ordinance went into effect, there has been a drop in GHG pollution. He estimates that today, GHG emissions are at 55,000 tons.

There are currently 1500 taxis in San Francisco, with 87 more expected to be issued this year, including 50 part time "single operator" cabs.

Below are more quotes from the press conference.

Ed Reiskin, Director of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

 “In order for Transit-First to work in San Francisco we need excellent taxi service. Because as much as we'd like to see you hop on Muni, or hop on your bike, or walk to get where you need to go, sometimes you need a car. 

 And from a transportation perspective, the most efficient and effective way for us to be able to meet that need, one of them is through taxicabs.”  

Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor of California, and former Mayor of San Francisco.

“This is a win-win-win for everybody. The cab drivers themselves are the beneficiaries of lower gas costs, cab companies are the beneficiaries of lower maintenance costs, and the citizens of the City are beneficiaries of dramatic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and enjoy a much more sustainable environment.”

David Chiu, President of San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

“There are many things that we still need to fix in the taxicab world. And I do hope that it is through a model of ideas from taxicab drivers from the industry working with City officials to make sure that San Francisco, that we are leading the way when it comes to taxis in America... taxis in the United States.”

Melanie Nutter, Director of San Francisco Department of the Environment.

“Our department staff worked with the Taxi Commission and the cab companies to create the Green Taxi Ordinance that you've heard referred to today. This collaboration resulted in a performance standard requiring that taxi companies achieve overall emission reductions each year, without mandating specific car models.

As long as each companies fleet met the required performance standard at an average level of greenhouse gas reductions each year, they could choose the mix of vehicles that best suits them.

Secondarily regarding education, we created the Green Taxi Vehicle Guide, to help all taxi companies throughout the City identify the cars that they could buy that would meet their required fleet averages.

And then finally we also worked using a tool... specifically... incentives. We were able to work with the Air District as well as the County Transportation Authority to secure grants to incentivize the purchase of hybrid vehicles by taxi companies, in order to achieve the level of emission reductions that would meet the overall goal

Jack Broadbent, CEO of Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

“At the Air District we provided a little over $500,000 for being able to purchase some of the taxis here today. And this is, we think, just step one of a long process moving forward and we're real proud of our partnership.”

More photos...

Mayor Ed Lee awarding a taxicab with a congratulations sticker.
President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu awarding a congratulations sticker
 on a Luxor Cab.
Ford Transit Connect CNG taxicab is said to get around 21-24 mpg, and about 200-250
miles per tank. 
Photos by John Han.


  1. Hi John, thanks for posting all this. Let us talk about something else.

    One is that Paul passed the law requiring the drivers to pay $ 7.50 per shift for using CNG or
    Hybrid vehicle. $ 15 a day x 365 day = 5475 a year and in 3 years time, the drivers paid
    5475 x 3 years = $ 16425.00 whereas it is proven
    that these vehicle were needing less maintenance.

    The cab companies used to buy their own vehicle at the price of $ 16,000 to 18,0000 a vehicle
    (mostly crown vic) and they demanded this money
    as to cover the extra cost of the vehicle. So
    adding $ 16425 in their capital reached to over $ 32,000-34,000. Why the drivers still have to pay $ 7.50 extra. Currently these vehicles (hybrid) are in the market (2nd Hand) for
    16-18,000 or almost new with 60,000 miles
    around that price. Why the drivers skin is
    peeled by the cab companies ? All that money is
    going in the pocket of either the cab companies or stock holder medallion owners (in co-op style companies). Is that a fair play.
    To compensate the drivers the meter was increased recently (after 4 years of paying this surcharge). Who is paying all this money for cab companies or medallion holders fat checks ? PUBLIC

    The price of the meter can be half if the medallion holders checks are eliminated
    between cab companies and drivers and
    usage of taxis can increase 300 % percent.
    People can leave their cars behind at home
    and jump on cabs. This can also open door for
    another 1000 cabs but if these fat checks are
    going to remain in the game, even 50 taxis extra are going to hurt cab drivers income
    because usage is not going to increase with
    current meter price. Sorry to those who will
    not be comfortable with this comment.

    1. Hey Tariq do ever do anything besides bitch? Your fuel costs are way down, your meter is way up and you still bitch.
      When was the last time a meter raise happened without a gate raise?
      The exact reason is is because the Hybrids are more profitable for the companies.
      What a cryin shame that the co. might make more profit at the same time you do. The only thing that makes you happy is if you win and the co. does not.

    2. I was expecting this language. Drivers suffered for 8 years without meter increase. So much so that on my previous Hybrid I paid $ 30 to 36 plus $ 7.50
      daily hybrid fee whereas I was drving about only
      100 miles a day in 7 hours. I paid on hybrid that kind of money because my hybrid was not working and everytime I put it in repair shop, it came back without fixing its hybrid. Normally it should have been not more than $ 13-18 dollar for the shift of 10 hours.

      So the new cooking in the pot is that Ford Hybrids are going to be eliminated and Ford escapes are going to be fitted with CNG.

  2. What a load of crap by a bunch of self-serving politicians and their overpaid functionaries with their green claims about hybrid taxis. How so is my gas bill on my 3 yo hybrid greater than a regular gasoline-powered economy car? Because the batteries lose their ability to hold a charge in their third year and are too expensive to replace. These batteries require expensive, rare earth minerals mined by cheap Chinese labor working under a fuel-and-labor intensive process. When you add in in the mysterious mechanical failures an electrical vehicle encounters, hybrid vehicles are not ready for prime time.

    Spare the Air days have increased in frequency in S.F. not decreased. Bay bridge traffic is greater not less. Cars are spending more time idling in traffic because of our incompetent City planners at DPT. It's all a dog and pony show at the expense of the little guy - cab drivers and a gullible voting public.

    Sick of all these commercials.

    1. I like hybrids much better than the old, gas guzzling Crown Vics and I'd say for myself, that I spend less money on gas with a hybrid than the old Crown Vics.

      But I see your point about the difference, or lack of difference, between hybrid and a regular car that's fuel efficient. Some economy cars advertise the same efficient gas mileage as some hybrids.

  3. Bottom line for the top feeders...
    Hasn't any one crunched the real numbers on conjestion and the the added cabs since 1990? Another question I have is... if the NEW hi-bread cabs fit less people don't we need more and more cabs for good or ... better service?
    Old-boy school thinking for a new boy on the block spin. No one likes burning GAS (or dollors) if they can help it. Besides don't forget about all those licenced and unlicenced limos that operate as cabs ...that aren't counted because of the unificency of the computer dispatch systems that drive people away from taking a taxi. Drivers are never given choice in the matter, and as I RE-call, Yellow Cab was under dur-ress and last to be on board to con-vert to a smaller and different cab. That only took great Gavin and Paul and formerly defunked Taxi Commission ten years of talking about it to act, after doubling the taxi fleet first.
    If Paul is so great ...why is he still driving a cab? oday ...

  4. John;
    Thanks for an excellent piece of reporting and high quality journalism. If there was any justice in the world your piece would have appeared in the Chronicle or Examiner this morning rather than the trivial bit in the Chron (the writer claimed on the website that the math was too complex for her), or Will Reisman's (who's a pretty cool guy who I gave a ride in my cab to once) hacked up press release in the Ex.
    Your explanation of what the actual law called for in terms of GHG reduction is the best and clearest that I have ever read. Your photography and layout and letting people speak for themselves were just really well done.
    I hope this is widely reprinted as an example of what new online electronic media can be but rarely is.

    Paul Gillespie

    1. I would like to know from Paul if he is in support of
      CNG Transit cars instead of Hybrid. Is he still opponent of CNG as he used to claim that their emissions are close to gasoline but he was pushed to accept CNG in the deal tabled before him. By the way
      I would appreciate if he can write one more time that
      how much metric tons emission per car from Gasoline vs
      CNG and CNG vs Hybrid. I need these numbers. Thanks in advance.

  5. The Greenest taxi City in the USA comes at a cost...the greenest fares in the land. As far as Pauly G. goes he just wants to be a another spin doctor. It's my understanding that most of the new and way old bandit limos drivers are just X-cab drivers looking for a more profitable line of work. All since taxi dispatch has gone down the tubes 20 years ago and they were given a key to the City. Bye the way .... does anyone know the proliferation of limo licences since 1990. All I kown is ... their heavy on green house gas emissions peak times or not and crusing around in mass in in the most highly conjested areas. But for one simple reason... their almost, if not completely ...unregulated. Just leave up to CPUC and the good old boys at City Hall, to look ... the other ways.

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