When the Taxi & Limousine Commission approved a cab fare hike in July, the board dropped a start date for the hike in an industry notice that otherwise drew little attention. Despite a dearth of press releases or public awareness campaigns trumpeting the increases, the fare hike can go into effect tonight if cab drivers are prepared for it.
As Matt Flegenheimer explains in The Times, the TLC finally decided to announce publicly that cabs that have been repapered and recalibrated can start charging the higher rates as soon as 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, September 4. Considering how drivers stand to benefit from the 17 percent hike — the first increase in the fare in years — I’d imagine many cabs will be sporting the proper markings as soon as possible. Flegenheimer has more:
The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission announced late Monday that operators of yellow taxis would be allowed to put the new fares — which increase rates by about 17 percent — into effect as of 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, once they have recalibrated their meters and updated external markings.
Operators will not be required to institute the fares until their first scheduled inspections after Sept. 30, meaning that the city’s taxi fleet will most likely include a mixture of old and new rates for the next several weeks.
“We anticipate that many taxicab operators will implement the new fare structure as of Sept. 4, so it is extremely important that taxi riders know and understand it,” David S. Yassky, the chairman of the taxi commission, said in a statement. “The taxi industry appears to be experiencing a smooth transition to the new structure, and we want passengers to experience a smooth transition as well.”
Drivers are thrilled with the increase, and they deserve it. The cost of living has gone up; the cost of gas has gone up; and, as we know, the cost of a subway ride has gone up numerous times. But cabbies haven’t seen their takehome pay go up since 2004. With a slightly lesser increase in rental fees, the drivers themselves stand to benefit.
And what of the riders? The $2.50 pick-up fee will remain the same, but a meter tick will jump from 40 cents to 50. A trip from JFK to Manhattan will cost $52 while the Newark Airport surcharge will rise to $17.50. For the benefit of taxi riders, the credit card surcharge on drivers will shift to a flat fee of $9 from its current five percent levy. The TLC believes this move will lead cabbies to be more accepting of plastic.
For now, though, we may see a few weeks of chaos and irate passengers. While subway hikes come down the pike with fanfare, public hearings and numerous signs in stations, the cab fare hike is arriving literally in the middle of the night. The only sign of the hikes comes on the industry page of the TLC website, and until September 30, it’ll be possible to pay two different fares for the same trip depending upon which cab one hails. Riders not clued into the hikes may not be too thrilled with playing New York City taxi version of Russian Roulette.
No matter how you slice or dice it though, cab fares are going up, and as cabs remain an integral part of the transportation scene in New York City, that’s hardly great news. I’m happy for the drivers who have a rough job and take home little pay, but with a subway fare hike on tap for March, getting around is just getting more expensive.