Expect a taxi fare increase by the fall, officials say
City officials believe they will approve a plan later this week to pass a fare hike for yellow cab riders.
After the second and final public hearing about the 17% increase concluded Monday afternoon, Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky expressed optimism that the agency's nine board members will give the proposal a green light.
"I expect that the fare increase will be adopted," Yassky told reporters Monday, saying that cabbies' pay has dropped by 24% since 2006 -- when they got their last increase -- due mostly to increased gas prices and credit card fees.
"One hundred and thirty dollars for a 12-hour shift just isn't fair compensation," Yassky said. "It's really not enough to make ends meet."
The TLC is expected to vote on proposals on Thursday to increase the fare, modify the way drivers pay credit card processing fees to have fleet owners charge a $9 fee each shift instead of collecting 5% from drivers each time a rider pays with a credit card and create a health care and disability fund for drivers.
Bhairavi Desai, of the Taxi Workers Alliance, told Yassky and Elias Arout -- the only other board member present Monday -- that drivers "desperately need" the fare increase and contributions to a new health care fund.
Fleet owners vehemently slammed the TLC's proposal, arguing that it is unfair because it doesn't also give them a larger increase.
Ethan Gerber, executive director of the Greater New York Taxi Association and a fleet owner, called the proposal a "poison pill" that fleet owners wouldn't support.
"That rate of fare increase should be equitable. It should be across the board," Gerber said. "Go back to the drawing board and do it again."
But TLC officials rejected fleet owners cries of poverty, estimating that large fleets make profits of more than $9 million annually.
"I can't imagine that somebody would take the position, "Well, I don't want to see the taxi driver earn more because I'm not earning more,'" Yassky said. "That seems just ungracious."
Vincent Sapone, a longtime cabbie and managing director of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners -- which represents drivers that own taxi medallions, agreed with Gerber that drivers and fleet owners should both get a raise, but said it should be higher than the 17% being proposed.
"Increase it so everybody can be happy," Sapone said, suggesting an increase of 23%, of which he said at least 17% percent should go to drivers.
When asked if he was for or against the current proposal, Sapone nodded in favor of it saying, "I ain't gonna turn down a tip."