Wednesday, 1 August 2007

First Impressions

It struck me the other day as I sat outside the arrivals hall at Vancouver International that for many of us the first impression we make of a city is based on its taxi cabs. So what do your cabs say about your city?

Sitting in a concrete box on the lower level of the airport I am struck that there is very little smell here. Even with a dozen taxis and shuttles rushing by each minute, there is very little exhaust in the air. My eyes travel down the taxi queue. At least half of the vehicles are hybrids. I've lived here for years and travel monthly from the could I have not noticed this before?

I return home - traveling my usual route green minded route of a scheduled shuttle downtown and public transit the rest of the way to the house - noting along the way the seemingly prolific number of hybrid taxis on the road throughout the city.

I hop online and Google 'hybrid taxis Vancouver'.

I'm surprised to find the city home to the world's first (self-proclaimed) hybrid taxi driver, Andrew Grant. Grant's first Prius cab was purchased in 2000 and his 7 year commitment to the car is chronicled in an interesting article by Brendan Sandbury, originally published in Grist in August 2005. At the time of the article Yellow Cabs - the largest taxi company in Vancouver - was operating a fleet of 40 hybrids, planning to roll over 25-30 in their 210 car fleet over to hybrids each year.

I feel a twinge of pride in the city, wondering how widespread the adoption of hybrid taxis might be in other cities.

Given the benefits outlined in Grant's experience the switch seems a no-brainer:
  • Savings of $900 - 1,100 per month on fuel costs.
  • Reduction in maintenance costs by half.
  • Access to a niche of green customers (Grant estimates 30% of his customer base are green clients, dialing him specifically because of his hybrid vehicle).
  • Silent riding.
Other cities are embracing the hybrid taxi philosophy, including London, New York and San Francisco. New York's move to green the city's taxi fleet is estimated to potentially reduce local greenhouse gas emissions by 50%.

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