The Bloomberg administration moved forward on Thursday with its latest attempt to get taxicab owners to replace their old gas guzzlers with hybrid or other low-emission vehicles.
Toward that end, the Taxi and Limousine Commission enacted a set of incentives that allows taxi fleet owners to charge drivers more to drive hybrid or clean diesel cabs.
The new rules, which take effect May 1, will also penalize fleet owners by lowering the amount they can charge to lease cabs that use more fuel and pollute more, like the Ford Crown Victoria, the most common type of taxi.
“Taxi fleet owners will have more reason to purchase cleaner vehicles,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement after the commission’s vote. “The result will be more clean taxis on city streets.”
Mr. Bloomberg proposed the incentives last fall, after an earlier set of rules mandating fuel-efficient cabs was blocked by opponents in federal court.
On Thursday, those opponents said the new plan was unfair, in part because it included penalty charges that would apply to thousands of cabs that are already on the road, rather than only to newly purchased vehicles.
“That’s unconscionable,” said Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, the group that filed the lawsuit. He said fleet owners had bought their vehicles with the understanding that the amount they can charge drivers, known as a lease cap, would not be reduced.
Under the new rules, fleet owners will be allowed to charge drivers an additional $3 per 12-hour shift for a hybrid or clean diesel vehicle.
The rules also decrease, by $4 per shift, the maximum that an owner can charge for less fuel-efficient vehicles. The rules call for that deduction to grow to $8 per shift after a year and $12 per shift in the third year.
The lease caps now range from $105 for day shifts to $129 for night shifts. The city said drivers would not be hurt by the higher hybrid leasing fees because those cars use less gas.
The mayor’s previous attempt to force taxi owners to change to more environmentally friendly cabs foundered because it set fuel efficiency standards, which opponents said only the federal government could set. A federal court ruled that the opponents’ argument was likely to succeed.
Of the 13,237 cabs in the city, 2,019 are hybrids and 12 are clean diesel vehicles. Most the remaining cabs are Crown Victorias. About one quarter of cabs are managed in fleets and it is primarily those that would be affected by the new incentives.