Taxi fares rise 15% Drivers adjust meters to reflect higher rates

First change since '91

Companies hope rate increase will lure drivers

November 16, 1998|By Amy Oakes and Liz Bowie | Amy Oakes and Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Baltimore-area cabdrivers began adjusting their meters yesterday to reflect a 15 percent fare increase, the first in seven years.

The increase, approved by the Public Service Commission, took effect midnight Saturday and cabdrivers in Baltimore said yesterday most passengers hadn't complained.

"Nobody noticed," said Jean Barthel, a cabdriver at Penn Station. "It is still the lowest [fare] in the United States."

The increase pushes Baltimore into second place for the lowest fare among the nation's 30 largest cities, said Ray Nelson, a vice president of Yellow Transportation Services.

Gregory Carmean, executive director of the Public Service Commission, said the increase for Baltimore City and Baltimore County was granted about a month ago after a review process that included public hearings.

"It was designed to give taxi drivers a livable wage," Carmean said.

The increase is 6 percentage points less than what 10 city and county cab companies had asked for in May, said Nelson, whose company operates taxis in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

But he is delighted with the increase anyway. The last increase, in 1991, gave cab companies a 17 percent increase.

"All the cab companies have committed to giving the proceeds from the increase to the drivers," Nelson said.

"We think this will attract more drivers, and by having more drivers, we can provide more timely service to the general public," he said.

Drivers rent their cabs from the companies and keep the money they earn in fares, Nelson said.

Fred Oke, a cabdriver in Baltimore, said, "It wasn't a reasonable increase."

Before driving away in his cab from Penn Station, Oke said passengers had yet to notice the increase.

"It was a minor change," he said, adding that it will have little effect on his lifestyle.

Other cabdrivers said they were concerned that business might drop off once regular passengers began noticing the increase.

But yesterday was too early to tell, several cabdrivers said, because many meters had not yet been adjusted to reflect the increase, and many cabdrivers were working under the old rates.

A supervisor at Royal Cab Association, who declined to give his name, said that before the increase, a ride cost a $1.20 flat fee, plus 10 cents for every tenth of a mile. With the increase, he said, the meter will add 10 cents at a faster rate.

In May, 1,151 cabs were listed in the city and 274 in the county, according to Mark L. Joseph, president of the Maryland Cab Association.

Pub Date: 11/16/98

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