Price of taking a cab in San Francisco might be on the rise 

January is the eight-year anniversary of the last time San Francisco cabs raised their meter rates. But with support building for reconsideration of the issue, it’s unlikely that eight more years will pass before rates increase again.

After hearing testimony from cab drivers at its meeting on Tuesday, the board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency agreed to formally consider a meter rate increase.

Cabs from The City currently charge $2.25 a mile and 45 cents for every minute stuck in traffic, the rates since 2003, when fares rose from $2 a mile. But since then, gas prices have increased, living expenses have risen and drivers’ cab-rental costs have surged, making it harder for cabbies to make a respectable wage, said Mark Gruberg,
spokesman for the United Taxicab Workers.

“Could you imagine if The City’s unions went eight years without a raise?” Gruberg asked. “That’s what cab drivers are experiencing.”

Cab drivers pay $104 to rent out their car for each shift. Any money they make beyond that total — whether from meters or tips — they keep for themselves. Driver Ed Healy said in an interview that he now makes less than he did in 2003.

The only compensation change drivers have received since then was a 25-cent increase in the price of a minimum fare in 2006. But because that surcharge only increased the price of very short cab rides, many drivers do not consider it a real price increase.

Neither Gruberg nor Healy would offer specific recommendations for meter rate increases, but both agreed that the hikes should be moderate so as not to scare away potential customers. In 2007, the City Controller’s Office recommended raising meter rates to $2.50 a mile, but that proposal was not enacted.

SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said he would put the issue of raising meter rates on a future agenda, although he did not mention a specific date. SFMTA board members Bruce Oka and Malcolm Heinicke, both former members of the now-defunct Taxicab Commission, said meter rates should be discussed soon. Oka said he’s received feedback from at least 200 taxi drivers asking for a meter increase.

Ticket to ride

$3.10: Flag drop (rate just to step into the cab)
$2.25: Price for every mile driven
$0.45: Price for every minute the cab waits for you
$16.15: Average cost for a cab ride in city

Source: Controller’s Office

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Will Reisman

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