Friday, October 30, 2009

Drivers, passengers bemoan MTA taxi surcharge

Drivers, passengers bemoan MTA taxi surcharge: "

TaxiLogo Did you know that taxi fares increase on Sunday? Did you know that the increase goes to the MTA?

As part of the piecemeal MTA bailout package, Albany approved a 50-cent surcharge on all metered taxi rides. That surcharge goes into effect on Sunday, and as amNew York’s Heather Haddon reports, neither cabs drivers nor taxi passengers are looking forward to it.

With the price just to enter a cab heading up to $2.50, New Yorkers are bemoaning the fees. “It was already out of control. Now it’s even worse,” Kim Dae, a so-called “frequent taxi rider” and West Village resident, said. Of course, therein lies the rub. Ms. Dae lives in the West Village, an area serviced by around 11 subway lines depending upon by which stop she lives. She might enjoy taking a cab, but the millions of us who ride the subway every day need the trains to run.

The taxi drivers, though, may have a legitimate gripe with the surcharge. Writes Haddon:

Taxi drivers are livid about the new fee, saying it will be difficult to collect and hurt their business. They are also fuming that new door stickers list the initial fare as $3, making it seem like drivers are getting a raise, said Bhairavi Desai, director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents 12,000 drivers.

“We think it’s deceptive,” Desai said.

The tax will be itemized on ride receipts, and listed on the interior TV screens and rate cards, a Taxi and Limousine Commission spokesman said. “The TLC will continually monitor the proper implementation of the meter change,” the agency said in a statement.

The enforcement and collection issues remain unaddressed. Critics of the taxi surcharge plan have long wondered how much it will cost simply to collect fifty cents per taxi ride from the city’s licensed hacks. It will require more diligent record-keeper than that currently employed by drivers to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Drivers, meanwhile, as Desai points out, draw the short straw. If the surcharge is not clearly demarcated as supporting the MTA, riders will think the drivers are drawing in more revenue when, in fact, the opposite is true. Tips may go down, and the already-strained driver/passenger relationship may get worse.

To end Haddon’s piece, Straphangers Campaign head Gene Russianoff issued a platitude as a statement. “No one likes a tax,” he said, “but no one likes a sky-high transit fare or cuts to service either.” The answer, though, is simple, and it is one I have repeated numerous times. Instead of taxing the taxis, toll the bridges. The money would flow directly from the MTA and would represent a more equitable reallocation of resources than the taxi surcharge will.

On Wednesday, Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch told an audience at NYU that bridge tolls will one day happen. When it does, the city and its public transit will be better off for it, and we can attempt to leave this stopgap array of taxes and fees in the dust.

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