Taxi fare hike: Cabbies get 17% increase for first raise in 6 years
Hailing a cab is about to get pricier -- and the fare could go up again as soon as next year.
Cabbies got a huge victory Thursday as the Taxi and Limousine Commission gave them a 17% raise, while keeping down the amount they pay fleet owners and eliminating a 5% credit card processing fee. The agency also promised to consider a fare hike every odd-numbered year, and to set aside six cents from each fare for a new health care fund for drivers.
"You need to make sure people can earn a decent living," TLC Commissioner David Yassky said after the plan passed by a 6-2 vote, with one abstention. “A taxi driver who works his or her tail off will earn enough to put food on the table and pay the rent.”
The fare increase, set to go into effect in September, will be the first since 2006, and willraise the average cost of a three-mile trip by about $1.75. Officials said the increase was necessary to offset a 25% drop in income that hacks have seen in the past six years because of increased gas and operating costs.
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the Taxi Workers Alliance, said Thursday’s decision would ensure “a better future for generations of drivers.”
"We just defeated the 1%," she said, referring to the taxi fleet owners who had heavily lobbied for an increase in the amount they can charge drivers to lease cabs. "Today is evidence that working people can still win in this society."
The TLC rejected a proposal from the fleet owners to increase their cut along with the drivers’ raise. Instead, fleet owners will get an extra $10 per shift for credit card processing fees, rather than collecting 5% of riders’ payments from drivers.
The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, which represents fleet owners, said it was considering suing to fight the TLC’s decision. The group successfully prevented the agency from issuing permits for its outer-borough taxi plan last month.
"By depriving the fleets that own and operate taxis of a needed lease cap increase and shortchanging other leasing operations, the TLC has set the taxi industry on an unsustainable path," spokesman Michael Woloz said.
Nora Marino, one of the two commissioners to vote against the fare increase, said she thought the TLC was being unfair to fleet owners.
"While I want the drivers to have this raise -- if it were up to me, it would be 20 %, I think they deserve it -- I think we have to take into account the entire industry," she said. "I don't believe these rules, as drafted, are fair to the other aspects of the industry, particularly the fleet owners and the [driver owned vehicle] agents."
"I don't think its right to protect one segment of this industry and disregard other segments in the process," she added.
Dozens of cabbies in attendance at Thursday's vote cheered and applauded once it passed, and several ran over to shake Yassky's hand and thank him for backing the pay raise.
Mohammed Jamil Hussain, who has driven a taxi for more than 20 years, said he no longer feels like a "second class citizen" after the TLC's fare hike and health care and disability fund.
"Today I feel proud for driving a yellow taxi," said Hussain, 45, of Astoria, who said he would use the extra income to earn a bachelor's degree in environmental science. "I get to pursue my studies, my dream."
Taxi passengers said they were disappointed about the hike.
"It's already too much as it is," said Samantha Black, a 28-year-old designer from Bed-Stuy, who said it costs her up to $40 to take a cab home from Manhattan. She added that "two years is too soon" for another raise.
Delinda Rago, a makeup artist from the Lower East Side who said she takes a cab three to five times each week, said the higher fare meant she would probably tip drivers less.
"If the fare goes up, the tip should go up, too, but I'm on an allowance," said Rago, 37. "If I have $20 to spend on a ride, that's it."
"I feel for the drivers," she added, "but I also feel for my pocketbook."
(With Sheila Anne Feeney and Ivan Pereira)
Average trip of 2.8 mile ride with 4.77 minutes waiting traffic
DRIVER MAKES = $9.94
RIDER PAYS = $10.44 (after $.50 MTA Tax)
DRIVER MAKES = $11.72 (a 17.9% increase for the driver)
RIDER PAYS = $12.21 (after $.50 MTA TAX) (a 17% increase for the passenger)