Hailing a cab in the city will cost a little bit more starting Monday.
To help alleviate the burden of high gasoline prices on cab drivers, the Philadelphia Parking Authority has announced a 50-cent gas surcharge to take effect next week. That surcharge will be added to an already-approved fare increase of $1 per additional rider in any cabs between the airport and Center City.
The parking authority says that the increased fare is just what the doctor ordered for taxi drivers - some of whom say otherwise.
"There are so many things they could have done besides going after the public," Ronald Blount, president of the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania, said in an interview yesterday.
Blount's alliance favors the gas surcharge, but fears that, coupled with the rate increase, it will be "too taxing" on the public.
"You can make the meter a million dollars," said Blount, 49, "but if you don't have anybody in the back seat, it's not going to make a difference."
Muhammad Chughtai, president of the Brotherhood of Unified Taxi Drivers, said that the parking authority could help drivers by reducing their fines.
"If the [parking authority] could reduce the amount of fines, it [would] bring money into the drivers' pockets that can be used to fill up the gas tanks," he said.
The surcharge was based on feedback from the driver unions, said Jim Ney, the parking authority's director of taxis and limousines.
He said that other cities have considered adding a gas surcharge to cab fares, including Dallas, which implemented an extra charge of $1.50 per trip.
"It's on everyone's minds and it needs to be, because again it takes a large chunk out of drivers' pockets," Ney said.
City Consumer Affairs Director Lance Haver wasn't thrilled by Tuesday's announcement of the higher fare.
"It's a lazy way of solving a problem," he said yesterday. "The solution is, first, to find innovative ways to increase revenues. Second, cut costs in the system. And third . . . to raise fares."
Haver has questioned the parking authority's tactics since a public hearing about the fare increase in January.
He suggested lowering the credit-card fees and getting rid of the authority's requirement that each cab have a GPS, which some cabbies say doesn't always work.
"The drivers need to make a living wage," he said. "The owners need to make a reasonable profit and the riders need a reasonable fare. If you don't have three legs of the stool, the stool is eventually going to fall down."