Taxi fares will rise 17% if the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission [TLC] approves the first fare hike in six years. The TLC is expected to vote for the increase this week, and it could go into effect as soon as September. At a packed public hearing yesterday, members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance mostly embraced the fare hike, which would affect longer trips more than shorter trips, by raising the charge for each fifth of a mile traveled to 50 cents, up from 40 cents. But some drivers insist the fare hike isn't steep enough.
Longtime driver Julio Gomez agreed to speak with us at the hearing after we promised we weren't reporters from the NY Post, explaining that the tabloid is "anti-yellow cab." Regarding the fare hike, Gomez said, "It's not enough. We need more money. We haven't had a raise in eight years, and after waiting this long, we should get 25%. And if we don't get it, we should go on strike! Surprise attacks! One day we refuse to drive to Port Authority, another day we boycott JFK airport. We will park our cars and make sure not one cab goes there." Asked what else he'd like to see change, Gomez said simply, "The mayor."
According to the TLC, most drivers walk away with $130 after a 12 hour shift (cab drivers at the hearing insisted that many make less than that) and when adjusted for inflation, cab driver income is 24% less than it was in 2006. Gas prices have also risen 45%, and the costs of other goods and services have continued to skyrocket. Meanwhile, according to the TLC, profits for fleet owners have soared 9.6 million higher for some larger fleets.
While stopping short of opposing the fare hike, fleet owners and taxi leasing companies said the fair hike would disproportionately affect them. Ethan Gerber, Executive Director of the Greater New York Taxi Association, told the TLC, "It is time for a fare increase, but that increase should be equitable, it should be across the board. The industries, and all the men and women who work in those industries, should get the benefit."
The TLC is also planning to raise fares between JFK and Manhattan to $52 plus tolls, and the Newark airport surcharge will increase from $15 to $17.50. (Part of the fare hike—$0.06 from each trip—will go to a fund to provide health care and disability benefits for drivers.) In addition, the TLC plans to stop requiring drivers to pay 5% credit card processing fees. Instead, hacks would pay a $9 flat fee per shift. To offset the shift of credit card processing costs to medallion owners, the TLC would allow a lease cap increase, which would raise the amount fleet owners can charge drivers to use a cab or a medallion.
The Taxi Workers Alliance is also pushing the TLC to implement a morning rush hour surcharge and a late night surcharge, but that is not part of the current proposal. And the fare increases fail to account for what some drivers call the "hidden costs" of driving a cab. Mohammed Patwary told the commission, "Sometimes customers vomit in the car on Friday and Saturday, and we call the police and the police behave like, 'It's not my business.' It takes at least $35, plus one or two hours to clean."