Airport limo services go green 

Taking Bay Area Rapid Transit to the airport has a lot to recommend it, ecologically-speaking, but it’s too slow and too full of people for some corporate types. So what’s a green-minded executive to do? Take an environmentally friendly, chauffered car to the airport, entrepreneurs are suggesting. This week, Boston firm PlanetTran opened a Bay Area office in San Bruno to serve companies and individuals, especially those going to and from San Francisco International Airport, with plans to expand to other offices near the Oakland and San Jose airports.

Their entire fleet consists of Toyota Priuses, the most popular hybrid car.

"It’s most like a black car service," company spokesman Knox McMullan said, driving a leather-interiored Prius around the South of Market and the Mission and talking about the area’s commitment to the environment. "This has got to be the best market in the United States for this type of business."

The company may compete with Green Car Limo, a two-year-old, Redwood City airport transportation, air charter and concierge service company affiliated with Kalacor Executive Service, which provides Mercedes S500 sedan service to high-end corporate leaders and small- to mid-size businesses. Green Car uses mostly Priuses, but also tries out other hybrids, such as the Toyota Camry hybrid.

"I converted my Benz people. They ask for it," Green Car CEO Michael Fadis said, adding that he was surprised the larger, more comfortable Camry hybrid wasn’t more popular with his clients. "People want the Prius look."

McMullan estimated PlanetTran’s service from San Francisco to SFO to be in the $70-range, depending on the San Francisco location, and said the cars all have leather interiors and will offer wireless online access for computers. Fadis said a trip from downtown to SFO was in the low $60s or more, also depending on location, and saidhis cars have custom features developed with Toyota and unavailable in off-the-shelf Priuses.

For the customer looking for the least damage to the environment who still can’t take public transit, the Prius hybrid is a better option than a car fueled by compressed natural gas, according to Greenpeace and Sierra Club researchers. The compressed gas cars are available via several of San Francisco’s taxicab services, as are some hybrid vehicles. According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the 2007 Prius emits some 3.4 tons of greenhouse gases a year, while the natural-gas version of the 2004 Ford Crown Victoria — the most recent year on record — emits 10.1 tons. (Statistics are available online at the Department of Energy site.)

Some San Francisco city officials said the environmental issue is complicated and that they believe natural-gas vehicles are better. Cabs are certainly cheaper. Yellow Cab Cooperative lists $32 to $40 for airport service on its Web site. You can request the eco-friendly cabs while ordering, officials said.

"Those are both good choices, because doing either one is a statement that we can do better than the regular old inefficient combustion engine, that we ought to be using new technologies to get us around. That statement is important regardless of which one you choose," Sierra Club spokesman Eric Antebi said. "Anyone who goes out of their way to do either one of those should be applauded."

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