People calling Baltimore city taxis will have to start paying an additional 75 cents starting Oct. 19 as part of an effort to improve the response time of city cabs.
Under the order issued by the state Public Service Commission, people who make a telephone request for a cab will pay an additional $1 along with the regular fare. Taxi customers now pay an addition 25 cents for that service.
However, if the taxi does not pick up the caller within 30 minutes of the scheduled arrival time, the driver does not get the extra $1. On the other side, a customer who calls a cab and then does not use it, will be charged $1. There is already a 50-cent penalty for such an action, but it was rarely collectible.
"This is an historic decision," Mark Joseph, president of Yellow Transportation Group, the city's largest taxi company, said in a prepared statement. "We think that this approach provides the best chance to maximize service to the public because it is a market-driven system based upon financial incentives and disincentives and market forces," he said. Joseph estimated that drivers can make an extra $10 to $20 a day under the arrangement.
The new rate, which was approved Wednesday by PSC commissioner Claude M. Ligon, grew out of complaints about poor taxi response at earlier hearings on proposed taxi rate increases. The National Federation of the Blind, which is based in Baltimore, was particularly critical of the service, and pressed for a system of promoting timely service.
In May the Public Service Commission approved a 19 percent increase for taxi rates, but coupled it with a requirement that the taxi companies work out a plan with consumer groups for better service.
Unlike the former 50-cent penalty, the taxi companies will attempt to enforce the $1 fee for calling a cab and not using it. "Consumers need to understand that you can't order a taxicab to come to your house if you don't intend to use it, anymore than you would order four pizzas and expect to only pay for the first one that arrived," Joseph said.