Blocked by a federal judge from imposing stricter fuel standards on taxis, Mayor Bloomberg took a new route yesterday to persuade cab fleets to go green.
In an industry dependent on tips, the mayor dangled significant financial incentives before fleet owners reluctant to make the switch to cleaner hybrids.
The mayor said the Taxi and Limousine Commission would change the maximum lease rates that medallion owners could charge drivers, increasing the fee by $3 for each 12-hour shift for hybrids and decreasing it $12 for gas-hogging Ford Crown Victorias.
The fees currently range from $105 to $129.
“It’s not imposing mileage standards. It’s voluntary,” the mayor said at a press conference in the Long Island City taxi garage run by Zion Yakuel.
An incensed industry spokesman accused the mayor of engineering an end run around the court ruling and hinted another legal battle was brewing.
“Today’s attempt to buy off taxi operators and to use backdoor methods to force safe, proven commercial vehicles off the road is wrong,” said Ron Sherman of the Metropolitan Taxi Board of Trade.
A federal judge last month decided that the city didn’t have the authority to override federal fuel standards, leading the mayor to ask Rep. Jerrold Nadler to sponsor legislation to give states and municipalities that right.
Told that some in the industry were troubled by his plan, the mayor struck back with a vengeance. “I think it’s more deeply troubling when they’re trying to kill our kids,” he said, a reference to the pollution caused by traditional taxis.
Some fleet owners hailed the mayor.
“Most of [the drivers] ask me if I have the hybrid and tell me they would pay me more,” said Mike Levine, owner of Ronart Leasing in Long Island City, Queens, which operates more than 300 cabs. “There’s no problem with that.”
Fleets account for about 25 percent of the 13,237 medallion cabs on the road. Officials say 1,565 are hybrids.
The new lease rates would be “phased in” after public hearings to give fleet owners time to make the switch.