The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Nickels using greenhouse gas to bully small business;

Seattle's taxis going green?

By Sharon Pian Chan

Seattle Times staff reporter

To reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels proposed Wednesday that all of the city's taxis get at least 30 miles per gallon.

Most of the 643 cabs in the city average 18 miles per gallon, and the mayor said upping fuel efficiency could cut the cabs' carbon emissions by 40 percent.

"It doesn't matter if your cab is orange, yellow or gray. We think they should be green," Nickels said.

City Council approval is required to make the change, and council President Richard Conlin said he likes the proposal.

Ford Crown Victorias make up most of Seattle's cabs, and as taxis they last three to seven years. As the cars are retired, the city would only issue new licenses for fuel-efficient vehicles. Nickels wants the switch to take place by 2013.

Nickels is not proposing a specific type of car, although he featured a Toyota Prius hybrid at his news conference under the Space Needle. He said cities such as Chicago, San Francisco and New York already have made their taxi fleets more green.

Nickels also wants to increase the number of cabs in Seattle by 50 percent. The current cap on taxi licenses is 667, and he proposed raising it to 1,000.

Cab owners criticized the mayor's proposal, saying it would hurt the small-business owners.

Driver Gurminder Kahlon, who owns his taxi, said, "It is very difficult for a driver to buy a $25,000 car."

"There is a recession, and Sound Transit opens next year." He was referring to the start of light-rail service between downtown and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which could cut into the taxi business.

Nickels said the city would work with banks to provide special lending programs for cab owners as they buy new vehicles. He also said he would discuss raising fares to help offset the cost of new cars.

City officials estimated taxi owners could save $10,000 in gas over three years if they make the switch. Kahlon said the savings may not cover higher maintenance costs for hybrid vehicles.

Several taxi drivers at the news conference who lease their cars said they supported the proposal. They said issuing more licenses would expand opportunities for them to own and license cabs, and the legislation would prohibit owners from shifting costs to drivers.

Nickels emphasized the importance of the cab industry as an economic foothold for immigrants. Eighty-nine percent of the city's cab drivers were born outside the U.S., he said.

Bashi Hassan, a driver who leases his cab, said the mayor's proposal is a "fabulous idea for economics, the environment" and driver protection.

King County started a program to protect the cab drivers' right to form a labor union and to promote green technology, but it was stopped in February by a restraining order after the license-bidding process was challenged. The county is seeking new proposals for licenses.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or

Why would the Mayor of Seattle not be promoting American cars such as this Ford Escape?

More City Taxis Going Green
by Jennifer Geiger

Kermit's objections aside, it is easy being green, at least according to Ford Motor Company. Making cities green is getting easier too, as Ford Motor Company expands its Escape Hybrid taxi program to more cities across the country.

Ford Escape hybrid taxi
Chicago is using Ford's hybrid Escape taxi for one year to evaluate how it would do on the city's streets. The city plans to make every taxi company incorporate hybrid vehicles into its fleet by June 2007.
Both San Francisco and New York City are already on board. San Francisco's hybrid Escape taxi program started in February 2005 with a taxi fleet of 40 vehicles. New York's 20 hybrid Escape taxis have been in service for almost a year. The latest city to put the Escape hybrid to task with around-the-clock, stop-and-go use in some of the most grueling, pothole-ridden traffic in the country is Chicago.

Announced at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show by Escape hybrid "spokesfrog," Kermit the Frog, Ford told the city of its plan to expand its hybrid taxi program to the Midwest's largest city. Chicago's Escape hybrid test taxi program involves a one-year evaluation of one Escape hybrid taxi given to the Department of Consumer Services. The department's plan is to use the hybrid taxi to educate the public and cab drivers about the benefits of hybrid taxis before the city's June 2007 mandate that taxi companies incorporate hybrids into their fleets.

"Mayor Daley's goal is to make Chicago the greenest city in America. Adding hybrid taxis will help Chicago meet this goal. Allowing and encouraging Chicago to use hybrids as taxis brings us one step closer to having one of the best taxi industries in the country," said Norma Reyes, Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Services.

Ford Escape hybrid taxi
Ford Escape hybrid taxi
Ford Escape hybrid taxi
The Ford Escape hybrid taxi driven by San Francisco cabbie Paul Gillespie (bottom) saves him $30-$35 a day in gas.
Escape's gasoline-electric hybrid model came to market in 2004 for model-year 2005. It has the ability to run on just the electric engine, the gasoline-powered engine, or a combination of both. In mild acceleration below 25 miles per hour, the compact SUV is powered entirely by the electric battery, using no gasoline. At a stop, the engine shuts off to further save fuel. Consumer Guide's test Escape hybrid averaged 28.4 miles per gallon during mixed city/highway driving.

Ford is the only American company with two hybrid vehicles in production and on the road; both Escape and Mercury Mariner compact SUVs currently offer hybrid variants. By 2008, the automaker plans to increase that number to six by adding hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan midsize cars and Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego large cars to that list.

Last week, Kermit was back in Chicago to give the Escape hybrid's keys to the city, kicking off Ford's eight-city Escape hybrid education tour. The purpose of the tour is not only to educate the public about the benefits of hybrid taxis, but also to increase awareness about hybrid technology in general.

"Ford is providing this as a tool to educate the public about this type of technology and we hope this vehicle will help companies invest in hybrid technology," Reyes said.

According to Ford, the advantages of the hybrid taxi program are numerous and benefit everyone involved. Escape hybrid taxi operators in New York and San Francisco are saving an average of $30-$35 a day in gas costs versus driving a shift in a Ford Crown Victoria taxi. They are also able to spend more time driving fares and less time filling up with Escape hybrid's 500 mile-per-tank range.

Ford also stresses the environmental pluses of the program, claiming one Escape hybrid driven 100,000 miles saves 1,666 gallons of gas and prevents 32 pounds of carbon emissions from being released into the air. The automaker also comes out ahead as taxi drivers, like San Francisco's Yellow Cab Escape hybrid cabbie, Paul Gillespie, become spokespeople for both hybrids and Ford.

"If this vehicle didn't work, I wouldn't be here today. Credibility and dependability is important in this line of work," said Gillespie.

Ford Escape hybrid taxi
Spokesfrog Kermit passes the Escape keys from Ford's Director of Sustainable Mobility, Nancy Gioia (right), to Chicago's Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Services, Norma Reyes (left).
On hand to interview Escape hybrid cabbie Paul Gillespie was Escape "frogperson," Kermit the Frog, who had to clear up one question right away. "When is Yellow Cab planning on changing its name to Green Cab?"

A Yellow Cab Company driver for 15 years, Paul Gillespie has been driving an Escape hybrid since February of 2005 in San Francisco and believes that everyone "has to start pushing the envelope a little in terms of clean technology." Logging almost 135,000 miles, Gillespie credits his hybrid cab with saving him $3,000 in gas money each year. His passengers like it too.

"You have to explain that I don't need to stop and plug it in or that the engine didn't just die out and now we have to walk home," Gillespie said of familiarizing his customers with the hybrid cab.

Gillespie has had his share of famous fares ride in his cab, Kermit among them. "When you're romantically linked with a pig, it's important to have an escape," Kermit joked.

While Ford hasn't released plans to expand the program to other metropolitan areas, the automaker's Director of Sustainable Mobility, Nancy Gioia, is optimistic that more cities are in Escape hybrid's future. "The Escape hybrid's success with both the taxi drivers and the public represents a real-world example of the Escape hybrid's capability, reliability, and dependability," she said.

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