Minneapolis loses eco-opportunity with taxi cab vote

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With its vote Friday lifting the cap on the number of taxi cab licenses, the Minneapolis City Council hopes to increase competition and improve customer service, but one council member says the city “lost an opportunity” to set the sort of anti-pollution standards that would ensure cleaner city air in the future.

Council Member Cam Gordon said he pushed hard during earlier committee debate to require that each of the 90 new cabs that will be operating on city streets by the end of 2007 meet EPA standards for fuel efficiency. Gordon’s stance was embraced by members of the council’s Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee, but it lost support by the time the measure reached the council.

“I thought we had some interest in this,” he said. “I thought it was a great opportunity for us to set some standards.”

Instead, the council will require that 10 percent of the current fleet and 10 percent of all new cabs operating in the city be fuel efficient. That would amount to a mere 43 cabs by the end of 2007.

Gordon attempted without success to stiffen the requirements during today’s debate, but opponents, including Gary Schiff, argued that it would be unfair to require new licensees to meet stiffer fuel efficiency requirements—especially those who are already operating taxi businesses in nearby suburbs and simply want to expand their operation into Minneapolis.

While he didn’t get all he wanted from the new ordinance (he had envisioned cab companies with fleets of hybrids), Gordon said he wasn’t despairing. “The good side is that by 2016, the city’s feet of cabs will be 100 percent fuel efficient,” he said. “So, maybe we did something good, but we could’ve done something more.”

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