Mayor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and the Department of the Environment joined the San Francisco taxi industry today to announce that 57 percent of the taxi fleet is comprised of hybrid or compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. There are 788 alternative fuel vehicles out of a total of 1,378 eligible vehicles. The CNG vehicles account for 131 of those and the hybrids account for 657.
“The clean taxi program shows that aggressive action is possible at the local level to make major reductions in carbon emissions,” said Mayor Newsom. “Today’s announcement reinforces our commitment to bringing these emissions to zero.”
In addition, less than two years after the City passed a law requiring taxi companies to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2012, emissions from San Francisco taxis are now at 12 percent of 1990 levels. With only 8 percent in reductions remaining, the taxi companies are now more than halfway in meeting the 20 percent required by the legislation.
Phasing in hybrid electric and compressed natural gas (CNG) taxis into the taxi fleet has resulted in roughly 35,000 tons of GHG emissions savings each year, which is the same as reducing fuel consumption by 2.9 million gallons per year. That is equivalent to taking 4,700 regular passenger cars off of the road, or saving roughly $9.5 million dollars annually in fuel costs.
“The SFMTA is proud to continue the work begun by the industry and the Taxi Commission,” said Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., SFMTA Executive Director/CEO. “This collaboration is an important part of creating a comprehensive transportation system that is environmentally sustainable.”
This number of alternative fuel vehicles continues to rise because the hybrid and CNG vehicles, while contributing to cleaner air for San Francisco, are also very popular with taxi drivers. Although the fee charged to a taxi driver to take out an alternative fuel vehicle is a bit higher at $104.50 per 10-hour shift instead of $96.50 for a gasoline fueled vehicle, the savings in fuel costs are substantial. For example, gasoline for one shift is approximately $28 to $35, whereas filling up a hybrid vehicle after a shift costs about half of that, around $15. The hybrid vehicles provide an additional economic benefit to taxi companies in that they require less time and money for brake repairs. San Francisco’s hills require the Crown Victoria taxis to have their brakes changed about once a month. Hybrids can go six to eight months on a single set of brakes.
The gradual and flexible nature of the clean taxi program facilitated its success. The program was accompanied by economic incentives from the City to vehicle purchasers in the form of grant subsidies and gate fee increases for alternative fuel vehicles. The SFMTA has continued the work of the former Taxi Commission in coordination with the Department of the Environment to encourage companies to purchase alternative fuel vehicles by providing a Clean Air Taxi Grant incentive. Grants of $2,000 per new alternative fuel vehicle are available to purchasers on a first come-first served basis. The SFMTA merged with the Taxi Commission in March 2009 and will oversee the ongoing upgrade of the San Francisco taxi fleet.
“Innovative solutions like the clean taxi program will keep San Francisco beautiful,” said David Assmann, SF Environment Acting Director. “By working in concert with the industry, San Francisco has created a program that gets results.”
San Francisco currently has 1,474 taxis in service. Of these, 96 are ramp taxi vehicles that are not subject to clean air vehicle requirements due to the lack of good alternative fuel wheelchair accessible vans available on the market. San Francisco taxi vehicles typically have about a four year useful life and must be taken out of service once they have reached 350,000 miles.
The clean taxi ordinance was drafted in 2007 and originally published as Police Code Section 1135.3. The SFMTA re-enacted the requirement as Transportation Code, Division II, Sections 1106(m) (emissions reductions) and 1114(e)(9)(A) (annual reporting requirement). The next report from taxi companies on their plans for vehicle upgrades going forward is due June 1.