Want greener taxis? Let the City know.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, everyone has an opinion about Toronto’s taxis.

On a professional level, I see them as an important part of a sustainable transportation system that includes walking, cycling, public transit, carpooling and carsharing. On a personal level, I see them from the vantage point of a cyclist jockeying for position on the road and as an advocate who is frustrated on a daily basis by cabs parked in bike lanes.

So, what’s a guy to do?

I believe that if you have something constructive to say, than you should say it. Fortunately, the City of Toronto is listening. For the past year, the City has been undertaking a Taxi Industry Review. This includes public stakeholder consultations, creation of a Taxicab Bill of Rights and establishment of a Taxicab Advisory Committee to help facilitate communications between the industry, the general public and the City. These consultations will help to inform recommendations for Council to consider.

Nary has a week gone by when I’m not asked why Toronto doesn’t have more hybrid taxis on the road.  A few years back, I got to do a deep dive into the industry via a grant to Co-op Cabs to determine the business and environmental case for hybrid taxis in Toronto. By analysing over 750,000km worth of fuel consumption data over an 18-month period, we concluded that an industry-wide switch to hybrids could lead to GHG reductions of 19,000+ tonnes per year and that, from a financial perspective, hybrids offered fuel and maintenance savings. This was further bolstered by rising fuel prices where every $0.10/L increase led to additional savings of $1000-$2000.

So, why don’t we just mandate all taxis to be hybrids? If only it were that easy (see New York’s similar challenges as they try to implement their “Taxi of Tomorrow” program). To be sure, the taxi industry in Toronto is a complex, politically challenging system that must respond to varying interests. From the different ownership models to the myriad regulations governing everything from fare structures, vehicle size and accessibility issues, it’s not an easy task to effect change.

But change can happen, especially with something as visually prominent and ubiquitous as taxis. We’ve witnessed a 10-fold increase in the number of hybrid cabs on the streets in the past few years (there are currently close to 300 hybrid taxis registered in Toronto) and hybrid owners are sharing their positive experiences with colleagues, including fewer fueling stops and happy customers.

If the market demands greener taxis, than the industry should respond. But the industry (and the City) needs to hear your voice. So, love ‘em or hate ‘em, let the City of Toronto know you want fuel-efficient, low-carbon and safe taxis for all.

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3 Responses to Want greener taxis? Let the City know.

  1. Carolyn Smith says:

    Air quality in the city is a major issue.
    Hybrid Taxis would help reduce emissions.
    A forward looking plan would improve the overall
    well being of the city for the future years to come.

  2. Andrea says:

    Is there some way to know which companies or cabs use hybrid vehicles? I would certainly use that information when ordering a cab if I knew.

    It is a great idea. I’ve often thought that cab companies would be naturals for electric vehicles, since their trips are usually short and city-bound. But I guess baby steps.

    • Ben Marans says:

      There is a service in Toronto that connects passengers with hybrid taxis. It’s called Eco-Taxi.

      As for electric vehicles, they aren’t very well suited to taxi duty cycles which are, on average, 250km per day. Also, unless there are fast charging solutions, drivers are unlikely have their vehicles out of service for hours at a time as time is money in the world of taxicabs.


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