In response to pleas from cabdrivers amid rising gas prices, the Philadelphia Parking Authority yesterday approved a new 50-cent surcharge, the latest hike in the cost of taking a cab.
Yesterday's unanimous decision by the authority's board of directors means that a trip that today begins at the standard $2.70 becomes $3.20 on Monday.
And that's not all.
A previously approved surcharge and a fare increase will go into effect on Monday as well.
Each additional passenger will cost an extra $1, beginning with the second passenger in a taxi. Thus, a three-passenger trip will cost $5.20 before the cab gets moving.
And the fare per mile will go from $2.10 to $2.30.
That might not even be enough to keep up, said Muhammad Chughtai, president of the Brotherhood of Unified Taxi Drivers. Chughtai asked the Parking Authority, which regulates taxicabs, to authorize a full dollar surcharge, instead of 50 cents, for trips to and from the airport. The board agreed to consider the request in committee.
"Fifty cents is not bad - we don't want to hurt the customers," said Chughtai. "If we ask for too much money, we're going to lose business."
The fuel surcharge is the first since October 2005, when the Parking Authority authorized a 40-cent increase that is now part of the base fare of $2.70.
As expected yesterday, the authority's board of directors also approved the distribution of more than $2.2 million to the Philadelphia School District.
The authority is required by law to send its first $25 million in profits from enforcement to the city's general fund; anything in excess goes to the school district.
The authority has come under fire for failing to pay even the $25 million, while increasing its staff and paying high salaries to executives. After a series of articles in The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News detailing the authority's spending habits, parking officials promised to contribute at least $26.25 million. The authority did better than that, taking in more than $27.2 million.
Parking Authority executive director Vincent Fenerty credited the improved financial performance to fiscal restraint, better management, and a mild winter.
The authority's enforcement actions and income suffer under harsh weather conditions, he said. Al Taubenberger, vice chairman of the board of directors, said the weather factor was "underrated" in its effect on revenues.
"We are very much a recipient of its goodwill," Taubenberger said.
The authority also found some surprise goodwill from Parents United for Public Education - one of the authority's strongest critics - whose representatives showed up to thank the board for its work.
Helen Gym, leader of the organization, is still awaiting results of a state-ordered, independent audit to recommend further changes.
"We don't want to have to cross our fingers on global warming," Gym said.