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New York City TLC votes in favor of taxi fare hikes

July 13, 2012 3:59:47 AM PDT
The cost of a taxi ride will increase by an average of 17 percent this fall following a vote Thursday by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The increase doesn't affect the base fare of $2.50 but does raise the per-mile charge. The commission also voted to raise the flat-rate fee between Manhattan and Kennedy Airport from $45 to $52. The surcharge to travel to or from Newark International Airport will rise from $15 to $17.50.

The increase takes effect in September and has the approval of cab drivers, who filled the meeting room. Some carried signs saying "Vote Yes-Yes" and "Justice Delayed is justice denied."

It is the first fare increase since 2005.

"This is an unspeakable moment of triumph," said Bhairavi Desai, director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance advocacy group. "We can finally go back to a livable income."

Commission Chairman David Yassky said commissioners have not received many complaints from passengers about the increase, but he said taxi usage might drop because of it.

One of those users might be Debra Branch. She takes taxis several times a week and is not happy with the fare increase. While sympathetic to the drivers, she said most people haven't gotten raises in years.

"It just makes me sigh," she said, walking on Eighth Avenue. "The city is just getting more and more expensive."

According the commission, it is cheaper now to take a cab in New York than in several other major cities, including San Francisco and London. The average taxi ride in New York City costs $10.44.

Another decision by the commission on Thursday puts a limit on how much cab owners can charge drivers to lease their cars.

"This is not economically viable for us," said Michael Keogh, a representative for the Committee for Taxi Safety, a trade association for the leasing agents.

The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade released a statement saying the commission "ultimately failed" the people of New York "by depriving the fleets that own and operate taxis of a needed lease cap increase." The group said it was reviewing its options.

Commissioners also decided that 6 cents of every cab fare would be put toward a health insurance and disability fund for drivers.

After 22 years of driving, Mohammed Jamil Hussain is glad he can have health insurance.

"I finally don't feel like a second-class citizen anymore," he said.

And he said that even though it's only pennies per fare, it can add up.

"It's a tiny portion," he said, "but it takes a drop to make an ocean."

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