Home Asides Cabbies agitating for steep fare increase

Cabbies agitating for steep fare increase

by Benjamin Kabak

They don’t like hybrid taxis or going outside of Manhattan, but New York City drivers do want the Taxi & Limousine Commission to approve a steep cab fare hike. The proposed raise would be the first in seven years and would see fares go up by approximately 15 percent across the board.

According to reports, the hike would see the mileage rate jump from $2 to $2.50 and would include a $1 morning rush-hour surcharge. Furthermore, trips from Manhattan to JFK would go up by $10 to $55 a ride, not including tips or tolls. The Daily News notes that the average three-mile trip would likely cost around $12.50, a steep price to pay for a short jaunt. “With higher gas prices and higher cab lease prices, drivers’ earnings are below a livable wage and below the minimum wage after working a 12-hour shift,” Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said

Rider reaction to the proposal, as WNYC found out, was mixed. Some New Yorkers support a hike if it leads to a better standard of living for drivers, but others are wary of granting the raise without ensuring better service. Rider Dan Gross told the tale a cab driver who refused to take him to his destination. “It happened to me the other day. I get into a cab, tell him where I’m going and he said he couldn’t take me there,” Gross said. “I want to help them but they have to help me. I think it starts there.”

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Brewster May 5, 2011 - 12:08 pm

Considering the increase in gas prices, and the fact that, iirc, medallion prices are pretty damn high to begin with, *an* increase is certainly justifiable after seven years of relative stagnation. Whether *this much* of an increase is justifiable I don’t feel qualified to judge.

Maybe before kvetching about cabdrivers who won’t take passengers to their destinations/accept credit cards/whatever, we should ask *why* they do it, and what could be done to improve matters so the cabdrivers have less of a reason to do so?

digamma May 5, 2011 - 12:13 pm

I don’t understand how anyone with a cell phone can be refused a taxi ride once they’ve gotten in the car. All you have to do is call 311 to “clarify” the rules.

Marc Shepherd May 5, 2011 - 2:23 pm

There are, and will always be, very few people who realize they can do that, and who have the appetite to challenge the driver in this manner.

And I would say, in most cases when a taxi refuses to take me somewhere, it doesn’t take all that long to find another one. I would rather have a driver that wants the fare, than one who was forced into accepting it.

Bolwerk May 5, 2011 - 3:12 pm

I have mixed feelings about it. Specifically, the times I use a cab, rare as they may be, are times when they’re most needed (and lots of other people want one). So I can have trouble finding one.

Bolwerk May 5, 2011 - 12:43 pm

There’s talk of SUNY tuition increases being incrementally scheduled. I think it’s a good idea for cabs too.

Michael Thwaite May 5, 2011 - 1:20 pm

I’m happy to pay more when there is a system in place to monitor driving quality, improve comfort and to encourage hybrid and EV cabs.

Ryan R May 5, 2011 - 1:20 pm

two points

(1) i really wish we had a transit system good enough that we wouldn’t need taxis. even connecting the airports to the borough centers and making more of a direct connection between NYP and GCT would make worlds of difference to reducing our need for the horrible institution of taxis. i know this isn’t a realistic proposal because of financial/political/whatever reasons. ugh.

(2) why are taxis so much cheaper in other countries? even hong kong, where the cost of living is equivalent to new york, has taxis at about 1/6th the price of new york.

Marc Shepherd May 5, 2011 - 2:18 pm

We all wish we had a transit system that good, but new transit links take years and cost billions to build, and in the meantime taxis must exist.

And there are some routes that I simply can’t imagine ever having good transit links in my lifetime, e.g., Upper East Side to Washington Heights, something I do regularly.

pea-jay May 5, 2011 - 11:11 pm

extending the Q from its proposed 125th St terminal across the island, connecting the 2/3, A/B/C/D, and 1 stations. Why can’t *THIS* be phase 3??

Bolwerk May 5, 2011 - 3:15 pm

It’s actually quite realistic. What isn’t realistic is our ongoing dependence on automobiles and slow buses. And the type of transit most needed, the kind that’s outside of Manhattan, is the kind that’s most affordable.

Chris May 6, 2011 - 12:42 am

To part 2, it’s a state-controlled market so the political strength of the license investor base is what tends to drive price levels; actual costs are mostly incidental. Pricing power in NYC is mainly driven through fleet size controls. In a freer market, the enormous gross profitability of taxi operations would attract many many new operators and drive down prices.

Frankly, I have no sympathy for taxi drivers as long as they continue to lie in bed with the medallion owners. A taxi driver is raking in profit hand over fist at current price levels. It’s up to them to help stop license owners from siphoning away that money, if they want to maintain a standard of living.

Josh May 9, 2011 - 8:58 am

In fairness to the TLC, taxis here are significantly cheaper than they are in London. Of course, in London you get a much higher standard of service.

Ed May 5, 2011 - 1:32 pm

I pretty much stopped using NYC cabs a few years ago, when I noticed a deterioration in the drivers’ ability to, well, drive, and their knowledge of the city. These days the refusal to take passengers to the outer boroughs could in part stem from a lack of knowledge in how to get there and back. And yes, for whatever reason taxis are cheaper in the rest of the world.

With rising fuel costs the fare increase could well be justified, but I suspect the licensing system needs reform. Its questionable whether they provide good enough service to justify the current fares.

Max S. (WilletsPoint-SheaStadium) May 5, 2011 - 2:21 pm

Every so often I have an excellent cab experience, but that is truly far and few between.

This past weekend I got in a cab in Williamsburg (with the light on indicating he’s accepting fares), told him I’m going to Ridgewood in Queens, and he had no idea how to get there. He asked me “What highway?” and I told him “No highway, just Metro and I’ll direct you from there” and he couldn’t get over the fact that he couldn’t hop on a highway back to Manhattan. Eventually he started not following my directions to the point where I had to raise my voice and unfortunately sound patronizing to him. It’s ridiculous that now I can’t even pick up a cab in an outer borough to go to an outer borough.

I tipped him $2… was that too much?

Ryan R May 6, 2011 - 10:30 am

Considering how high the taxi fares already seem, I’m curious about the economics of the business. Is there an article about this somewhere? Is it a fair assessment that the fleet owners are siphoning off an unfare share of the fares, leaving the drivers with not enough pay to live? Is there a breakdown somewhere of how much money the cabbies take in per hour vs. how much they get to keep… how much goes to fleet owner, how much to gas, how much to maintenance, etc.? This seems like a necessity in understanding whether there should be a rate increase. Is this only a problem because there’s an unfair monopoly situation?

Al D May 9, 2011 - 12:19 pm

Talk about a single source provider. First, they defeat a plan to legalize what is currently going on illegally anyway because they won’t provide the legal rides in the first place, a violation of the law. Now, they want more $ in which to further this? Ridiculous. Can someone please actually negotiate with them to get a fair trade?


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