SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Today Mayor Edwin M. Lee, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), Department of the Environment and San Francisco taxi industry leaders announced that San Francisco’s taxis have exceeded the 2008 goal of reducing the average per-vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. In 1990, the average San Francisco taxi emitted 59 tons of GHG emissions per year, and today the average taxi in the City emits 30 tons, a 49 percent reduction.

“San Francisco’s clean taxi program has exceeded all expectations,” said Mayor Lee. “San Francisco taxicabs are the cleanest in the U.S. and a model to other taxi fleets around the world. The vision and leadership of Mayor Newsom and the Taxi Commission on this ground-breaking program set us on this path, and the taxi companies and taxicab drivers have embraced this program to make San Francisco a model for the rest of the world.”

“When I announced this goal, many people didn’t think it could be done,” said Lieutenant Governor Newsom. “The clean taxi program has shown that aggressive action is possible at the local level to make major reductions in carbon emissions, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate a new green economy. Now we are here today recognizing San Francisco as the ‘Greenest Taxi City in America.’”

The 2008 Green Taxi Ordinance specified a reduction of average per-vehicle GHG emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels. The San Francisco taxi fleet was comprised of 821 eligible vehicles in 1990 and has grown to 1,432 today. Meanwhile overall emissions from the taxi fleet have been reduced by 10 percent. Thus, San Francisco has almost doubled the size of its taxi fleet while achieving a 10 percent total reduction in GHG emissions. Phasing in hybrid electric and compressed natural gas (CNG) taxis into the taxi fleet has resulted in 35,139 metric tons of GHG emissions savings the equivalent of taking 6,890 passenger cars off the road every year and saved taxi drivers an estimated $11 million in fuel costs annually.

“The collaboration between the SFMTA, the Department of the Environment, our funding partners and the taxi industry is an important part of creating a comprehensive transportation system that is environmentally sustainable and supports our Transit First policy,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Edward D. Reiskin. “We will continue to work with the taxi industry to improve taxi service while advancing our environmental goals.”

“Cutting global carbon dioxide emissions is the most crucial issue of our time, and the San Francisco taxi experience has shown that taking aggressive, collaborative action at the local level can be both profitable and effective,” said taxi driver and former Taxi Commission President Paul Gillespie. “I know the San Francisco taxi industry will continue to play the role of pioneering, early adopters of the cleanest vehicle technology available.”

Today 92 percent of the taxi fleet is comprised of hybrid or CNG vehicles. There are 1,318 alternative fuel vehicles out of a total of 1,432 eligible vehicles. CNG vehicles account for 89 of those and the hybrids account for 1,229. San Francisco currently has 1,521 taxis in service. Of these, 89 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.

The 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, filling up a hybrid vehicle costs about half what it costs to fill up gasoline-fueled vehicle. The hybrid vehicles provide an additional economic benefit to taxi companies in that they require less time and money for brake repairs.

The SFMTA, in coordination with the Department of the Environment, encouraged companies and drivers to purchase alternative fuel vehicles by providing a Clean Air Taxi Grant incentive. Grants of $2,000 provided by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and the San Francisco Transportation County Authority (SFCTA) were issued to purchasers on a first come-first served basis. A total of $518,670 in grant funds was dispersed to help purchase 251 hybrid vehicles.

The Green Taxi Ordinance was passed in 2008 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).