Could not authenticate you.followers
When you flag down a taxi in Los Angeles, you’re likely to climb into the back of a Ford Crown Victoria — a wide, boat-like model that gets about 14 miles per gallon of gasoline.
Within the next several years, however, taxis franchises in Los Angeles will be trading their Crown Vics in for Toyota Priuses, hybrid Honda Civics, and Ford Fusions, in an effort to “green” their fleets during the next half-decade.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to require at least 80 percent of vehicles affiliated with all licensed taxi franchises in the city to be fuel-efficient. Other cities, such as Long Beach, San Francisco, and New York have already adopted similar measures.
“We have the opportunity to do something that has lagged for too long: greening our taxi fleets,” said Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, 13th District, who chairs the city council’s Transportation Committee.
The “greening” requirement comes as part of a plan to renew the contracts of the nine existing taxi franchises in Los Angeles for five more years. Because the existing contract was set to expire on December 31, the council was under pressure to reach a new agreement, so as to avoid the prospect of New Year’s Eve — one of the busiest nights of the year for taxi drivers — without any licensed cabs.
In addition, the city received a $2.5 million federal grant to help purchase handicapped-accessible taxis, which also would have been lost if no deal had been reached before the contract expired.
According to Jeannine Brands of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the purchase of a fuel-efficient vehicle will largely pay for itself, with the improved gas mileage — approximately 45 miles per gallon in hybrid vehicles — likely to save drivers $6,000 per year. Brands added that with more and more hybrid and electric vehicles entering the marketplace, fuel-efficient vehicles are becoming easier to purchase, with used vehicles now available for around $12,000.
Councilmember Tony Cardenas, 6th District, recognized the difficulty that the purchase of a new vehicle could pose. Cardenas said the five-year contract extension was designed to ease that burden on taxi companies.
“Five years makes a lot more sense, especially for individual taxi cab owners, who might not have much to sign up for collateral when getting a loan,” Cardenas said. “This way, they are going to have a longer time to feel secure that they will benefit from their investments.”
Councilmembers also pledged to apply for grants to help that would help fund purchase of and conversion to fuel-efficient vehicles.
Still, the new contract is not without controversy. Many of the taxi drivers had pushed for only a two-year contract renewal, during which the city would conduct a comprehensive study of the taxi system. A 2008 University of California, Los Angeles study revealed that on average the city’s taxi drivers make only $8.39 per hour, usually without benefits, and cannot leave one franchise to join another because of the way cabs are permitted.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, a variety of taxi drivers, speaking with accents from all over the world, criticized the five-year plan for a variety of reasons, though some drivers also spoke in support of the plan.
“We’re disappointed with the city’s action,” said Hamid Khan, a founding member of the Taxi Workers Alliance. “The city has failed in its obligation to protect a public utility. For many years, drivers have been complaining about corruption in the industry, but the city has done nothing to combat that.”
In an effort to appease some of these drivers, Councilmember Richard Alarcón, 7th District, introduced an amendment to encourage cab companies to voluntarily agree not to retaliate against drivers who joined unions.
Handicapped-accessible vehicles will be exempt from the green requirements, meaning that five years from now about 70 percent of the city’s 2,303 licensed cabs will have to be fuel-efficient vehicles.
“The overall population wins on the greening of cabs,” Rosendahl said.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.