GCLA Scores First Date with SF Airport on Green Rules

LCT Staff
Posted on June 9, 2010

ABOUT PHOTO: GCLA President Alan Shanedling updates operators on SFO green rules at June 8, 2010 GCLA meeting in Los Angeles. Photo by Eric Sabroff.

SUMMARY: One of the chauffeured transportation industry’s epic regulatory struggles now heads to table talk for a possible resolution.

SAN FRANCISCO — California operators will get a chance to meet with managers of San Francisco International Airport to explore ways to ease the most stringent green vehicle regulations ever passed against limousine operators.

The first session among officers and lobbyists of the GREATER CALIFORNIA LIVERY ASSOCIATION and managers at SFO will be held at the airport on Wednesday, June 30.

“The airport has softened from a position of mandating new rules by 2012 to “let’s talk,’” said GCLA president Alan Shanedling during a monthly association meeting Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

The GCLA is pushing to bolster its membership and financial support for the lobbying and legal advice it needs to persuade SFO officials to modify the unprecedented rules. SFO policies now on the books will require all luxury limousine and livery vehicles entering airport property to be alternative fueled as of Jan. 1, 2012. Operators entering airport property with conventional gasoline vehicles — still expected to be the vast majority of luxury fleet vehicles for years to come — would see their airport access fees triple. SFO wants to cut its carbon emissions by requiring all ground transportation, including taxicabs, shuttle buses, and now, limo/livery vehicles, to be green.

An SFO official’s announcement in March to the GCLA that the rules would be enforced without changes set of a furor among California operators who held a packed TOWN HALL MEETING on the issue near SFO on May 18.

Operators are concerned that such rules could inspire airports nationwide to adopt similar measures. That would force operators to either convert fleets to more costly, smaller, and less profitable green vehicles or drive those operators who couldn’t afford them out of business. The U.S. also lacks adequate fueling infrastructure now for compressed natural gas, bio-diesel, and propane fueled vehicles.

In California, five major airports either have adopted strict green rules or are considering them, Shanedling said. At the San Diego International Airport, officials passed a rule that requires all limousine and livery vehicles accessing airport property to get at least 45 mpg as of 2017.

Fortunately, San Diego officials have told the GCLA they will review the availability and progress of green livery vehicles and fueling facilities each year. They would delay enforcement of the policy from year to year until vehicle manufacturers could “catch up” by building acceptable luxury limousine vehicles that meet the high mileage standards.

Nevertheless, as of today, NOT ONE limousine livery vehicle exists that can get 45 mpg. The Toyota Prius and the Royale Ford Fusion Hybrid L — the two most fuel efficient livery vehicles on the market — average about 40-41 mpg tops. What’s more, neither vehicle qualifies as a typical large luxury vehicle, although the Royale Fusion is stretched six inches to provide legroom comparable to that of a Lincoln Town Car.

The 45 mpg mileage standard in San Diego serves as an example of the absurdity and unreality of many green regulations that are being passed by local, state, and federal governments nationwide. The challenge for the GCLA is to help environmental regulators understand that five passengers and their luggage traveling to the airport in a Cadillac Escalade ESV, for example, is still an overall efficient use of energy and transportation, whether the SUV runs on alternative fuels or not. Under the San Diego green rules, those five passengers and their luggage would have to be spread out among three smaller, greener vehicles.

“We cannot be penalized for driving more people to the airport,” Shanedling said. “The planes flying in are much worse polluters.”

In talking with SFO, operators have an opportunity to broadly define “sustainability,” Jonna Sabroff, executive vice president and legislative chair of the GCLA, told the meeting in Los Angeles.

Just as the hotel industry has defined its sustainability efforts, the chauffeured transportation industry “must” do the same, Sabroff said.

“They want us to talk to them in the ‘spirit of the policy,’” Sabroff said. “It’s not about vehicles; it’s about sustainability. We need to get to the politically correct people we’re dealing with on what sustainability really means. We have to get smart FAST. We must have a definition in place for the chauffeured transportation industry by the time we meet with SFO sometime in July or August 2010.”

— Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine

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