Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Department of Corrections | Linda @ Call Center »

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Where the Gas Is Always Greener

posted by on October 18 at 13:05 PM

I don’t drive—but I routinely take cabs. More comfy than bikes, less embarrassing than DUI charges.

But it occurs to me that taking cabs produces more exhaust-per-trip than driving: Most cabs run 12 to 24 hours a day, and most of that time the drivers don’t have a passenger. They just tootle around or idle, waiting for someone to call or hail them, all while the car spews exhaust.

So when I got off the airplane yesterday and the weather sucked, I felt a smidge of guilt as I flipped Metro the bird and caught a STITA Taxi. The company has a monopoly on fares originating from the airport but can’t pick up fares originating anywhere else, so the cabs never carry passengers more than half the time. And then, on the back of the driver’s seat, I saw this:


It turns out, the car is among the majority of cabs in STITA’s 166-car fleet fueled by natural gas, which produces about 70 percent less carbon monoxide (and other crap) than gasoline. A few other STITA cars are hybrids. The company switched over from gasoline in 2006, as required by the Port.

Obviously, STITA isn’t single handedly counteracting America’s impact on global warming, but it did temporarily assuage my liberal cab-riding guilt. And using natural gas is a decent stopgap for the cars that rarely leave the road. Even better, however, would be if Yellow Taxi and Orange Cab hopped on the bandwagon (they have 360 and 170 cabs, respectively), but they probably won’t. Neither will the average local car buyer. Although Southern California, where I just left, has 100 compressed natural gas stations, there are only seven in the Puget Sound region—two of which are publicly accessible. We should really install more. Beginning 2009, Washington will provide a sales and use tax exemption for alternative-fuel vehicles.

RSS icon Comments


It's all bullshit. They're all lying to us. I don't believe a fucking word of it.

Posted by Bad Day | October 18, 2007 1:10 PM

It's a shame that no-fuel or hybrid cabs aren't given an exemption from tolling.

Then they could drive across a toll bridge and ignore the toll.

Bonus being they get there quicker and economic incentives exist to encourage cab drivers to not burn fuel just to sit and wait.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 18, 2007 1:18 PM

I strongly recommend growing a sac and taking the bus.

Posted by Fyodor Zulinski | October 18, 2007 1:20 PM

Fantastic post, thank you. This makes me feel good about the world for today.

Posted by Amelia | October 18, 2007 1:24 PM

Fyodor, I take buses all the time. But the weather was shitty, I didn't want to transfer downtown in the rain, and I was in a hurry--so I sucked in my sac and bit the big one...

Posted by Dominic Holden | October 18, 2007 1:29 PM

Will - Heh, STITA already gets there more quickly; they're routinely out-speeding anyone on 509.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | October 18, 2007 1:35 PM

Will (Build Elevated Freeways) in Seattle @2:

It's a shame that no-fuel or hybrid cabs aren't given an exemption from tolling.
Then they could drive across a toll bridge and ignore the toll.

Will, are you under some mandate to spout some pseudo-green, counterproductive, "brilliant" idea on every single transit, planning, or environmental topic that comes up? Anyway, wouldn't it be nice, before we talk about giving exemptions to tolling, if we actually had tolling?

Anyway, I wasn't aware there was such as thing as natural gas automobiles. Nothing' like a new panacea to make us feel good about ourselves and climate change. Besides, driving your car is more important than heating your home and your food, so it's probably just as well that our natural gas supplies get diverted to vehicles, just like our food supplies are getting diverted to vehicles. I mean really, what's more important, eating or driving? In Seattle, definitely driving.

Just one concern. Does this mean now that, in addition to preparing for peak oil, we have to prepare for peak natural gas too?

Anyway, I'm just trying to imagine how our perpetual transportation debate will get re-framed if this Roads & Transit ballot measure goes down. In five or 10 or however many years, if the Puget Sound ever gets a chance to vote on a light-rail-only package, I'm sure the local "environmentalist" left will be going on and on about how light rail is too expensive when we have all these wonderful green car technologies out there.

Posted by cressona | October 18, 2007 1:49 PM

Seattle is way behind NYC on this: any new medallions they're giving out are only for hybrids, and as yellow cabs can only be 3 years old, the entire fleet of Crown Vics will turned over for Highlander or Escape hybrids soon.

Of course, those Fords will just roll on somewhere else. Someone needs to develop a retrofit to convert Crown Vics and Town Cars to mild hybrids or at least add an idle-stop function.

Posted by Some Jerk | October 18, 2007 1:49 PM

Some Jerk @8 --
I've seen plenty of Prius yellow cabs in Vancouver. They cut quite the striking figure, I must say. If there's any sort of vehicle use that is well-suited (economically or environmentally) for hybrids, it's taxis, what with all the stopping and starting.

Posted by cressona | October 18, 2007 1:52 PM

@5 - I don't blame you. God, the weather sucked yesterday...even worse today.

Posted by Hernandez | October 18, 2007 1:57 PM

Fuck taking the bus from Seatac. It's fine for going to the airport but not home from there.

Posted by Matt from Denver | October 18, 2007 1:59 PM

Sure, maybe the Port requires Stita to use alternative fuels. But their policy that disallows all the non-Stita cabs driving to the airport from picking up a return passenger means nearly 1/2 the trips are empty. Wasted fuel. Wasted road space. More emissions. Thanks Port.

Posted by swell | October 18, 2007 2:00 PM

Uh, hybrids are only mildly helpful at best. The Prius is awesome, but big hybrid SUVs get almost as sucky gas mileage as their regular gas counterparts. A hybrid Suburban, for example, only gets about 1-2 extra MPG over a regular gas guzzling Suburban. Switching from the old Crown Vics to Escape or Highlander hybrids will do almost nothing for the environment. A futile feel-good gesture, at best. Switching from Crown Vics to Priuses (Priusi?), on the other hand, would make a huge difference.

Posted by SDA in SEA | October 18, 2007 2:01 PM

All I'm saying is, this particular silver lining still contains a fatass cloud.

Posted by Fyodor Zulinski | October 18, 2007 2:05 PM

Maybe that's why STITA cabs are allowed to exceed posted speed limits by 25%.

Posted by old timer | October 18, 2007 2:12 PM

I drove yesterday, and I wish I'd taken the bus. I-5 sucked.

Posted by Greg | October 18, 2007 2:21 PM

Try sticking 3 suitcases and a cooler into an airport Prius at 2 in the morning. It ain't easy or fun. I missed the big ol' Crown Vic!

Posted by DOUG. | October 18, 2007 2:45 PM

(Sales tax will) not apply to sales of new passenger cars, light duty trucks, and medium duty passenger vehicles, which are exclusively powered by a clean alternative fuel.

Why in hell would a used hybrid have a tax?

And yes, Cressona, if we would put the effort and money that has been put into roads/ST2 into getting cars more efficient we could do much more to clean the air and reduce GHG.

Posted by whatever | October 18, 2007 3:03 PM

awwwwwww, is poor widdle cressona upset cause didn' gets your widdle endorsement?

Grow up.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 18, 2007 3:11 PM

oh, and @7, CNG means Compresssed Natural Gas. Which are used in Cali, for example.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 18, 2007 3:13 PM

Whatever @18, it's already pretty apparent from your history of posts that you care as much about global warming as the Swift Boat consultants cared about John Kerry's service in Vietnam. You're just some anti-government, anti-establishment crank. You're just happy to tweak people using fake global warming arguments that sound like they come straight out of ExxonMobil-funded think tanks and that even you don't believe.

Anyway, our friend whatever's response brings to mind an interesting piece/post on the NY Times Web site today:
Tomorrow’s Chevrolet: Two Vaporwares in Every Garage?
At least natural gas-fueled vehicles and hybrids are real.

Oh, I'm also reminded now of the Times' recent interview with Jim Ellis, the guy who tried and failed to bring mass transit to this region almost 40 years ago:

He goes back to the 1968 transit vote that was part of another Ellis legacy, Forward Thrust, and one of his bitterest losses.

"We were ahead in the polls, right up to the last three weeks," he said. "Then, some very clever ads came out, and one day General Motors showed up with a large trailer-truck. It had a huge window and inside was a chrome-plated jet engine, and the sign said something like, 'This is the engine of the future. It will make buses faster than trains!'

"No one would ever put a jet engine in a bus, but people didn't know that and we slowly lost the vote for transit. That was in 1968. If the people had voted for it — eventually it would have been 80 percent paid by the federal government — the system would have been finished in 1985, at three times the size of the one before voters this November. And the last payment for it would have been in 2008."

Posted by cressona | October 18, 2007 3:14 PM

Will in Seattle @19:

awwwwwww, is poor widdle cressona upset cause didn' gets your widdle endorsement?
Grow up.

Will, can you help me? I'm trying to follow your message. So in one sentence you make a childish retort and then in your next sentence you make an exhortation to "Grow up." Were you talking to yourself with that last line?

Will, my problem is there seems to be this endless stream of stupid ideas coming from you. What's the deal? Do you ever actually get feedback from real environmentalists before you throw out these ideas so they can actually give you a sense how stupid they are?

Your idea to arbitrarily give exemptions to tolls for hybrid cabs is the kind of "improvement" that ends up undermining tolling itself. In California, hybrid drivers are already feeling entitled to use the HOV lane. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if, once we finally after how many years started implementing tolls, the Sierra Club started campaigning to get hybrids exempted. But really, nothing surprises me anymore.

Posted by cressona | October 18, 2007 3:26 PM

Ignore him. He's an idiot. And I don't know how old he is, but I do know that he shouldn't be telling anyone to 'grow up'.

Posted by Mr. Poe | October 18, 2007 3:43 PM

I've heard that Will in Seattle is actually NOT a 13-year-old with ADD, and is in fact somehow involved with the 43rd District Dems, which is an extremely pathetic reflection upon my party and my district.

Posted by DOUG. | October 18, 2007 4:06 PM

I've heard that the US Senate is holding hearings today on Mandated Requirements that every state - including Washington - reduce their global warming emissions for traffic and transit by 70 percent by 2020.

Which means what I said about paying for something to increase them when we'll have to pay to decrease them is ... spot on.

Reality has a liberal bias, no?

Global warming is HERE, kidlings. Not tomorrow. Not in a few years. Right NOW.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 18, 2007 4:16 PM

STITA is switching their whole fleet over to hybrids from what my cabbie told me. The cabbies love them because they have to pay less for gas. My cabman even averred that they are roomier; there is more room for large items like skiis because the seats fold down.

Posted by George | October 18, 2007 4:43 PM

Cressona - in all the back and forth you have never explained how this package will help reduce GHG in time to diminish GW.

I'm anti-establishment? I thought Olympia was establishment and they hate light rail according to you. So if one doesn't like this ST2 are they establishment or anti-establishment? Is Kemper establishment? Is Sims establishment? Are you establishment?

Your proof that we can't or won't dramatically improve gas mileage in a majority vehicle in 20 years is a Blog? How do find such an obscure Blog? If GM doesn't build some very high mileage or hybrid type cars, others will. Teslamotors has a first model and the paypal money behind it is enough to make it work.

It seems so obvious we can get people to switch to non-polluting or low-polluting vehicles more easily than to build rail networks to serve people living in the 8000 square miles in our metro area and getting them to use it.

Electric cars are already here - at least two dealers in Seattle area - and with battery improvements they could be a major part of the car and small truck fleet.

You also have never questioned the excessive cost of LR in Seattle. Portland $22 to $60 million a mile including deep tunnel sections with the most recent finishing in 2004, yet our easy route took twice as long to build and 3 times the cost.

Since you don't really need to be where you work, why don't you move to Portland and tele-commute. Your ideal for Seattle is 70 miles of light rail in 20 or 30 years - mine would be big density in Seattle, eletric cars, new GHG free electrical generation and in-city transit.

And I don't think a jet powered bus cost them the election in 1968 or 1970.

Posted by whatever | October 18, 2007 7:47 PM


Escape Hybrid city MPG: 34
Crown Vic city MPG: 17

I'm no math major, but that's double the mileage.

Posted by Some Jerk | October 19, 2007 7:29 AM

thanks for pointing it out, dom. i've noticed it, too. come on, orange cab. orange, the loveliest of them all, please keep that orange but go green! can i throw a shout out to ballard biofuels? woot!

Posted by kurtz | October 19, 2007 11:21 AM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).