April 6, 2006

Council Retains Taxi Fare Hikes

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The Ithaca Common Council voted 6-3 last night to reinstate a $0.25 taxi cab fare increase, which had expired Friday, and a $0.50 late-night surcharge per passenger per trip between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

In response to rising gas prices, the council first approved a $0.25 increase in fares in 2004 and has voted to continue the increase three times since then.

With the increase, taking a cab within one zone goes from $4.35 to $4.60, when going between 2-4 zones, the price increases from $4.85 to $5.10 and when traveling in 5 or 6 zones the price goes from $5.35 to $5.60

These increases only affect taking a taxi in the city since the taxi industry in Ithaca is regulated by the council which determines pricing rate and structure.

A few Ithaca Dispatch taxi drivers spoke at the beginning of the meeting and the council addressed the issue later in the evening.

About 10 taxi drivers and operators from Ithaca Dispatch were at the meeting.

“Our city business is not profitable. In order to subsidize that – we have other services – courier services, trips to the airport, rides to Syracuse, Boston,” said Ken Kadar grad, part of the management team at Ithaca Dispatch. The company currently employs 55 to 58 drivers and has 19 taxis in use.

“We shouldn’t be here discussing $0.25, we should be talking about raising the rates by $0.50,” Kadar said. In the past few years, gas prices have increased from substantially, from around $2.14 to $2.70. Kadar added that not having the $0.25 increase for the past few days has made a difference to drivers’ paychecks.

The council members also mentioned the Taxi Operations Review Committee, composed of representatives from the community, Community and Neighborhood Services Committee, Common Council, Ithaca Dispatch, Ithaca Police Dept., Town of Ithaca and City Attorney’s Office that will be going over taxi regulations and operations and reporting back to the council.

The council deliberated over the vote, passing one resolution to enable them to actually vote on the taxi fare increase. Council member Gayraud Townsend ’05 (D-4th Ward) said that this issue especially affects students and people who can’t afford a car.

“There is a mentality that students can afford price increases, and I don’t think that’s a justification for overcharging,” said Townsend. He said that there are living wage issues, car maintenance and inspection, and that maybe there should be a board to handle complaints. Alderperson Maria Coles said that she saw no potential harm in extending the price increase, but that voting against the $0.25 would be harmful, especially with gas prices set to increase.

“[The resolution] unfairly targets students with the late-night surcharge,” said David Gelinas (D-4th Ward). He explained that students out late and going to bars would be most affected by the $0.50 surcharge between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. He proposed an amendment to remove the late-night surcharge that did not get a majority of the votes. After a long discussion, the council voted 6-3 in favor of the price increases with both Gelinas and Townsend voting against the motion.

Archived article by Vanessa Hoffman
Sun City Editor