Getting CRAZY For Green In San Francisco

Posted on March 24, 2010 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

The GCLA is trying to talk some sense into an airport authority that insists all livery vehicles servicing airport property must be green starting in 2012.

SAN FRANCISCO — Operators with the Greater California Livery Association are finding out how mean going green can get.

The San Francisco International Airport Commission told the GCLA at its meeting March 10 that it was planning to enforce a long-range goal adopted in 1995 of requiring all limousine and livery vehicles servicing SFO to be alternative fuel (green) vehicles, starting in 2012. The comments were made by Henry Thompson, director of landside operations at SFO.

The GCLA is planning to meet with San Francisco airport commissioners to point out that while an “all green” access rule is a worthwhile goal, it’s not possible by 2012 since the type of luxury vehicles customers want will not be available in affordable, practical green configurations by 2012.

“This is absolutely ridiculous,” said Alan Shanedling, president of the Greater California Livery Association. “With the Town Car going away, and clients dictating what vehicles are in limousine fleets, it’s difficult. With most operators being mom and pop operations, people can’t afford an extra $15,000 for a CNG car.”

Shanedling pointed out that under these intended airport rules, a “client” could drive his own Lamborghini to SFO that gets 5 mpg, but yet that client couldn’t ride in a conventional gasoline-powered Lincoln Town Car.

“Our passengers are boarding and arriving on flights,” Shanedling said. “Most building owners don’t dictate what you have to do when you go see the dentist in their building.”

Unlike small operators, cab and shuttle companies are more capable of meeting the requirements because of their large volume and the availability of grants, Shanedling said.

GCLA lobbyist Gregg Cook of Government Affairs Consulting in San Francisco said he has asked the commissioners to hold a study session with members of the chauffeured transportation industry about how and when to implement such a proposal.

“This is something we want to do, but the vehicles they are calling for don’t exist,” Cook said. “Customers will continue to demand a Town Car type of vehicle. And if the industry does produce a compatible vehicle, then there is no infrastructure. If you spend money converting to CNG, where does the gas tank get filled?”

According to the rules, hybrid vehicles qualify as green, but so far, there is no hybrid Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac DTS sedan. In fact, the largest luxury vehicles available in hybrid options include the Cadillac Escalade (but not ESV version), the Royale Ford Fusion Hybrid L, a mid-size sedan stretched six inches, some Lexus hybrid models, and assorted GM SUV models. The diesel Mercedes R-320 has emissions reducing BlueTec technology.

Cook said it would behoove airport authorities in California, particularly in the Bay Area and in Southern California, to be mindful of the competition among airports for airline passengers who often have multiple departure and arrival choices.

“The arrogance of some of these airports is that they tell us how we will behave on their property,” Cook said. “They seem to forget the fact that we are supporting them. If the experience for the traveler to and form the airport with us is positive, then the traveler will continue to want to do business with that airport.”

— Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine

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