Transportation — mainly cars and trucks — accounts for about 40% of Toronto’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, along with a whopping 80% of the city’s health damaging air pollutant emissions. It’s also the one area where Toronto has failed to achieve any progress in reducing emissions. While emissions from all other sources in Toronto are on a downward trajectory, transportation emissions have been steadily increasing for the past 25 years. So any new policy or program to reduce transportation emissions is a welcome relief.

That’s why we are so excited about City Council’s decision  last month to include green standards in the new taxicab licensing by-law which took effect on July 1st. There are approximately 5,500 taxis in Toronto and, on average, one taxi will rack up 10 times more kilometres/year compared to a personal vehicle. So while taxicabs are a minority of the total vehicles in the City, they account for a disproportionately high share of GHG emissions and air pollution.

Many years ago TAF ran a pilot project working with, among others, Co-op Cabs. We

One of the Hybrid Taxicabs from TAF's 2007 pilot project

One of the Hybrid Taxicabs from TAF’s 2007 pilot project

wanted to test the feasibility and outcomes incorporating fuel efficient taxis into the taxi fleet. We launched the Toronto Hybrid Taxi Pilot in 2007 and at its conclusion found that hybrid vehicles could meet the taxi industry’s needs – in terms of on-road performance, affordability and the like – while substantially cutting GHG emissions and fuel costs by 24% to 37%.

 

Based partly on these results and consultation with TAF, Toronto City Council resolved to transition the taxi industry to low emissions or hybrid technology by 2015, as part of the 2007 Climate Change, Clean Air and Sustainable Energy Action Plan. However, implementation was left to voluntary action on the part of the taxi industry; to date only about 10% of the industry has been transitioned to low emissions or hybrid technology. Completing the transition by 2015, as originally envisioned, is no longer possible.

The good news is that the new bylaw adopted by City Council last month establishes mandatory green standards for all new cabs. New taxis must be either:

  • Alternatively fueled (e.g., electric or run on biodiesel)
  • Hybrid
  • Have a fuel efficiency of at least seven litres per 100 kilometres (to be revised annually)

An exception to these requirements was made for designated accessible taxis, as you can’t buy fuel-efficient versions of this type of cab – yet. Taxi vehicles are permitted to remain in service for up to seven years, so the transition to low-emissions vehicles should be completed by 2020.

The new standards, once fully phased in, will reduce annual GHG emissions by approximately 22,000 tonnes and save the taxi industry $12 million in yearly fuel costs – part of our steady effort to reach the city’s 2020 emission reduction goals.