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Bloomberg to reward cabbies for going green

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced new incentives last week that would reward city taxi drivers who use fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles in an effort to make the city’s yellow cabs greener.

The program would provide financial incentives for taxi fleet owners to purchase fuel−efficient vehicles and disincentives for continuing to use traditional vehicles.

“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,” the mayor said at a news conference in Long Island City where he announced the initiatives.

Bloomberg said the city’s 1,551 taxicabs typically save drivers an estimated $15 in fuel savings per shift, which adds up to as much as $5,000 per year.

The new incentive program would allow fleet owners to increase the lease cap fee for drivers in fuel−efficient cabs by $3 per shift, which Bloomberg said would offset the increased cost of purchasing one of the vehicles.

But the city Taxi and Limousine Commission would propose decreasing the lease cap fee that an owner can charge a driver by $12 per shift if the vehicle is a traditional Crown Victoria or other non−fuel efficient taxi, the mayor said. Fleet owners would lose as much as $8,500 per year for each vehicle if they continue to use less efficient vehicles, he said.

City elected officials slammed a recent decision made by a Manhattan federal judge that prevented the city from requiring cleaner taxi cabs.

“If a city wants to do better or to go further than federal law requirements, then localities should have that freedom and not be pre−empted by federal law,” said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D−Manhattan).

Rati Sharma, who has driven city cabs for 15 years, said he prefers hybrid taxis to Crown Victoria models.

“It’s the only car I want to drive,” he said. “It’s comfortable and easy to drive. I’ve been able to save $12 to $15 every day. People who drive Crown Victorias spend two times as much as I do on gas.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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