State grants taxis temporary rate increase

Rise of 30-35 cents a fare lasts 90 days, aims to help cabbies meet fuel costs

March 30, 2000|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Reacting to skyrocketing gas prices, the state Public Service Commission has approved a temporary rate increase for Baltimore city and county cab drivers effective Monday.

The increase, 35 cents per fare in the city and 30 cents per fare in the county, will remain in effect for 90 days, said Dwight Kines, general manager of Yellow Cab and Checker Cab, who applauded the action.

The five-member PSC board unanimously approved the increase last week. It is 5 cents higher in the city because, on average, Baltimore drivers pick up four fewer fares per day, Kines said. Stickers will be placed in cabs to alert patrons to the increase, he said.

"With the rising costs in gasoline, cabdrivers are feeling the pinch," Kines said yesterday. "They pay for their own gasoline."

Kines said the increase will remain in effect through July 1, even if gas prices drop. "They haven't charged any additional money yet, and they've been feeling the gas crunch for six or eight weeks, and they've been really feeling the squeeze."

The increase next week will be the second in fewer than six months. In 1997, the PSC approved a general meter rate increase, which led to a 15 percent increase in November 1998 and an additional 4 percent increase in November 1999, Kines said.

"In that case, gasoline was $1.10 a gallon," Kines said. "That increase was for increased expenses. We had not had a rate increase since 1991," before 1997.

Kines said he doesn't think the increased fares will have a big impact on business. "I don't think they'll stop riding cabs," he said. "I think this is minimal enough that it will not have a negative impact on ridership."

Vincent Agu, 42, who has driven a cab in Baltimore since 1996, said he wishes the increase was higher.

"It should have been done a little sooner," Agu said yesterday while waiting downtown near Mercy Medical Center for a fare. "It's going to benefit the cabdrivers, especially the full-time drivers."

Agu, who drives 12 to 13 hours a day, Monday through Saturday, said he spends about $27 filling up his tank.

"I would like to see a permanent increase," Agu said. "Baltimore has one of the cheapest cab rates in the entire nation. It's very cheap. It's about time we catch up with other states."

Mozell Wilder, 49, who occasionally rides cabs, said she approves of the rate hike.

"It's a valid increase," Wilder said yesterday while waiting downtown for a bus to take her to her West Baltimore home.

She said she wouldn't be surprised if bus fares also were increased.

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