Robey backs increase in Howard taxi rates tied to length of ride

Cab drivers welcome plan over flat $1 rise

June 25, 1999|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Pleasing Howard County cab operators, County Executive James N. Robey is proposing a fare increase tied to the length of each ride instead of a flat $1 per trip increase recommended by a county board.

Robey will ask the County Council to allow rates to increase 40 cents for the first mile, and 20 cents for each additional mile, Sang W. Oh, his executive assistant, said yesterday.

Customers who ride longer distances would pay more under this plan than under the board's proposal.

Under Robey's formula, a five-mile trip would cost $7.80 in Howard County, compared with $8.60 in Montgomery County and $7.60 in Baltimore County. A 5-mile trip would cost $1.20 more than it does now, while a 20-mile trip would cost an additional $4.20.

"It's a fair proposal and balances a lot of concerns and answers the main issues," Robey said.

Objections that a flat rate increase would be "too burdensome on short trips" influenced Robey's decision, Oh said.

The executive's rate plan pleases cab owners and drivers who weren't happy with the flat $1 per trip increase proposed Tuesday night by the county's Public Transportation Board.

"I think that would be more agreeable," said Frank Osei-Bonsu, owner of Columbia Cab, the county's largest firm. "Most of what we are fighting for is not coming directly to this company, but to the drivers," he said, noting that the cabs are owned, maintained and insured by the drivers.

Isaac Ijomoh, 45, a Columbia Cab driver, agreed. Recently, Ijomoh said, he replaced his car's alternator, which cost $250 plus two lost work days. "It's killing us," he said about Howard's low cab fare rates.

Owners and drivers said most fares are short rides, but the longer ones are a vital part of their earnings.

Cab fares in Howard have not increased since 1991, though insurance, maintenance and vehicle prices are all up substantially since then.

Atta Poku, owner of Mini-Star Cabs, also approves of Robey's idea.

"A flat dollar is just squeezing the poor people [because they take short trips]. This sounds better," Poku said.

Several members of the transportation board said they don't object to Robey's changes.

"The greatest point of concern for us was not the amount, but the quality of service," said Arthur E. Muegge, the board's newly elected chairman. Muegge said he sees the amount of a fee increase as less of an issue.

Jeffry Barnett, the outgoing chairman, agreed. "We're not offended," he said, about Robey's changes.

Oh said Robey will adopt the board's recommended customer service improvements -- establishing a grievance policy, posting a complaint phone number in each cab, training drivers in courtesy , safe driving and cleanliness, and taking a yearly customer service survey.

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