I think anyone who's been paying attention knows that the biggest pollution problem in America is the car (or really, SUVs, because they're gas-guzzling pigs). I don't own a car, but Nate does, and we do drive sometimes, but mostly, we take the train. Driving is really for places the train doesn't go.
Now part of the biggest problem of cars (and buses and trucks) is idling. There have been laws passed in some urban areas prohibiting school buses from idling while they wait to pick up children after school. But there are still tons of people idling all over the city; the driver who lets the car run while he "just nips in" to get some money from the ATM. Or the idling in the drive-through at McDonalds, while people wait for their food, or their change. All that idling contributes major pollution to the air.
In NYC, however, SmartTransportation.org has lobbied the city government to replace taxis (chronic idlers, and pollutant spewing machines) with hybrid vehicles. I think this is a great idea. And Thomas Friedman, in writing, also explored the effect of the change on all the stakeholders:
I asked Evgeny Freidman, a top New York City fleet operator, how he liked the hybrids: “Absolutely fabulous! We started out with 18, and now we have over 200, mostly Ford Escapes. Now we only put hybrids out there. The drivers are demanding them and the public is demanding them. It has been great economically. With gas prices as they are, the drivers are saving $30 dollars a shift.” He said drivers who were getting 7 to 10 miles a gallon from their Crown Vics were getting 25 to 30 from their hybrids. The cost of shifting to these hybrids, he added, has not been onerous.
T. Friedman's point in the column is how to make change through a grassroots effort. And so, I took the idea to heart, and I wrote to the LEV (low emissions vehicle) project coordinator in Boston, and also to SmartTransportation.org to see how I can get involved to help push the hybrid taxi idea here in Boston. Since Governor Deval Patrick is already investing in wind power, I think it would be great if he could back better emissions standards for taxis by making them hybrids. I suspect if the effort were started, it would easily go through.