MADELINE BRAND, host:
From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.
New York City's famed yellow taxis are going green.
Today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that within five years, every single cab in New York will be a hybrid. MARKETPLACE's Amy Scott joins us now from the Big Apple. Amy, yellow cabs - they are a New York institution. What's this going to do to the city's image when they ditch the Crown Vics?
AMY SCOTT: Well, it will certainly change, and New York isn't really the first city to do something like this. San Francisco is attempting something similar. That city has a plan to make every cab either a hybrid gas-electric car or one that runs on alternative fuel within the next three years. Chicago is starting to require some hybrid cabs. You know, these of course are fuel-efficient cars that run on both gasoline and an electric battery.
But for New York to do this is a pretty big deal. There are 13,000 taxis here. We have some of the worst air quality in the country, and the city has actually been dragging its feet on this issue for several years. But after a lot of political pressure and some testing of hybrid cabs, Mayor Bloomberg got on board. By next year, every new cab will have to get at least 25 miles to the gallon. And by 2012, all cabs will be hybrid.
COHEN: It doesn't sound like a cheap move. Who exactly is going to pay for this?
SCOTT: Well, cab drivers either buy their own cars or rent them from fleet operators so it's the owners who will ultimately pay the price. I talked to Todd Sigaty. He's a co-founder of Smart Transportation.org. The group really championed this effort in New York. And he says the cars do cost a few thousand dollars more.
Mr. TODD SIGATY (Smart Transportation.org): If you're an individual driver only driving a few hundred miles a month, it might take the life of the vehicle to even make your money back. But if you are a New York City taxi driver and you're putting in over 100,000 miles a year, it's basically a savings - depending on the car you buy - of around $4,000 to $7,000 a year.
SCOTT: Now, some large cab companies have been fighting this move over the increased costs, but a few cab drivers we talked to this morning were pretty supportive of the switch. You know, they're getting hammered by gas prices right now, so the idea of saving money on fuel is pretty appealing.
COHEN: What kind of hybrid cars are we talking about?
SCOTT: Well, officials aren't saying until a press conference this afternoon, but it sounds like it will be a mix. In tests so far they have been anything from the Toyota Prius to the Ford Escape. There's even a Hybrid Lexus model on the streets right now.
COHEN: Amy, for those who've never been in a hybrid car, they get really quiet sometimes when they're stopped at an intersection. You're radio person; what do you think the city's going to sound like with all these hybrid taxis?
SCOTT: Well, probably a bit quieter. They are apparently quieter than a vacuum cleaner when they're in electric mode, and that is apparently a concern, especially among the blind. But there is some effort underway...
COHEN: Concern that they're not going to hear these taxis?
SCOTT: Exactly. When they're coming, it could be dangerous. But apparently, there is an effort to come up with some kind of audible warning.
SCOTT: Thanks so much, Amy. Amy Scott of public radio's daily business show MARKETPLACE. It's produced by American Public Media.