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The Green Life: Green Taxis Catching On From Coast to Coast

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February 19, 2009

Green Taxis Catching On From Coast to Coast

Green taxi I don't take a lot of taxis, but I admit that when I do hop in a cab, speed and convenience are my motivation, not my carbon footprint. So I perked up while walking through downtown San Francisco this week when a Green Cab zipped by, sporting a spiffy green-and-white paint job and a checkered logo.

The company was founded in 2007 by eight veteran cabbies who were tired of getting pathetically low gas mileage in their company-issued cars. Green Cab is still a small outfit but the hybrids comprising the worker-owned company's modest fleet get 40-plus miles to the gallon.

"The gas savings could put a lot more in your pocket," Green Cab co-founder Mark Gruberg told the San Francisco Chronicle. "There are two principles we feel most strongly abouthaving a driver-run company and having an environmentally responsible company. It seems like this is really coming together at the right moment."

San Francisco, Seattle, and New York have all been pursuing measures to green their taxi fleets, such as requiring that taxi companies purchase only alternative-fuel, hybrid, or high-mileage vehicles when replacing retired cabs. Chicago and Boston have also announced plans to green their fleets in the near future. Every three years, San Francisco's entire fleet of cabswhich numbered 1,350 when Green Cab was foundedturns over.

According to the Cleantech Venture Network, North America's nearly 200,000 taxis drive about 10 times more than regular passenger cars. Switching to hybrids will save cab drivers an average $1,200 to $1,500 per month on fuel. Cleantech has launched an initiative to convert taxis to hybrids, which could save $50 billion in fuel costs over a decade.

A little web surfing reveals that green cab companies are sprouting like spring wildflowers. Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago, Dallas, and Detroit all have green taxi companies, as do many smaller cities like Burlington, Vt., Arlington, Va., and Charleston, S.C. Google "green cab," plus the name of your city, to find out whether there's an environmentally friendly taxi outfit where you live or are traveling to.

Of course, you can go even greener by taking a bicycle taxi; more on that next time...

--Tom Valtin

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