Taxi drivers call for gas surcharge

June 3, 2008 4:47:16 PM PDT
Taxi drivers say high gas prices are hurting their bottom line. Now, they are calling for a surcharge on every ride.They say it's hurting them to fill up, and want to pass some of the pain along to passengers.

Eyewitness News reporter Carolina Leid has the story.

Some drivers say they've gotten to a point where they just leave the windows down so they don't have to use the air conditioning. They want the passengers to pick up part of the tab.

"I don't want to hurt the public, but I'm hurting," driver Larry Milpourne said.

Milpourne says it is getting harder to make ends meet. He and most city cab drivers have to come up with about $50 in gas money just to start the day. With gas averaging around $4 a gallon, drivers say they are taking much less home.

"That's why you see some guys driving 80 miles an hour around, because they're trying to make their wages livable," another driver said.

Now, the New York Taxi Workers' Alliance announced they need to pass off the high gas price customers. They are proposing a $1 surcharge when gas is between $3 and $4 a gallon, $1.50 when it's between $4 and $5 and $2 when it's between $5 and $6.

Chicago has already approved a similar plan, and drivers hope New York is next.

A TLC spokesperson says drivers are making a livable wage. A recent study found an average low-end driver makes $14.51 an hour and hybrid drivers pull in $3 more at $17.45. That's based on a gas price of $4.15 a gallon.

But Milpourne feels it's not a livable wage, and he'll keep driving around with his windows open to save on gas, because he believes it will just get worse until he needs to find another job.

The TLC released a statement saying there is no compelling reason to go forward with a surcharge. But many taxi drivers say they will continue fighting and talking to their city Councilman.