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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Clean Air Taxi Laws Cut Pollution in New York City

New York City (NYC) Clean Air Taxi rules are successful in cutting emissions and reducing air pollution, according to a new study by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Drexel University. Between 2009 and 2015, legislation more than doubled the fuel efficiency of 13,500 yellow taxis, leading to estimated declines in air pollution emissions.

The scientists report that fuel efficiency of the medallion taxi fleet climbed from 15.7 to 33.1 MPG, and estimates of nitrous oxide and particulate exhaust emissions declined by 82 percent and 49 percent, respectively. They also found emission reductions were associated with decreases in concentrations of pollutants in the city’s air.

Clean Air Taxi laws do not regulate the city’s 100,000 for-hire vehicles like Ubers and Lyfts which are governed by separate laws.

The researchers created maps to measure taxi traffic and used inspection/trip data to approximate taxi-related exhaust emissions. NYC Community Air Survey data were collected at more than 100 monitoring sites to estimate the impact of these changes.

The biggest effect was seen in Manhattan neighborhoods with a high density of yellow taxis – not in areas with elevated rates of respiratory illness. This finding suggests other policies are needed to make meaningful advances in improving respiratory health.

“This study provides evidence that air pollution legislation can have real impact,” says co-author Dr. Frederica Perera, professor and director of Translational Research at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. “Even though yellow taxis account for a small proportion of vehicular miles traveled on NYC’s streets, in midtown they account for almost half. Similar regulations targeting other vehicles could make an even bigger difference.”

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