Thanks, But We’d Rather Walk

1212416840Whenever we ride by a gas station, we make a mental note of the astronomical prices. One morning a couple of weeks ago, my friend filled her tank at a station near my apartment. When we returned that evening, prices had climbed one cent. In less than 12 hours.

So we understand the plight of cabbies, who need to fill up a couple of times a day to earn their pay. But a fare hike is the last thing passengers—or drivers themselves—need.

Our wallets, they cringe in terror.

The proposal, which the city has agreed to review at a public hearing, would increase the per-mile rate by 50 percent and the starting fare from $2.25 to $2.75.

That would put the per-mile rate at $3.60, making the most expensive cab fares in the country even higher.

As Joe Keohane wrote in the January 2008 issue of Boston magazine, the city’s cab licensing system is deeply flawed, which has screwed both drivers and fares.

Years ago, cab drivers owned both their vehicles and their medallions, the city-issued licenses that allow drivers to put a taxi on the road. The same went for those who had whole fleets of cabs, which they’d maintain themselves and rent out to drivers on a daily basis. Over time, the value of the medallions would go up, and, as it did, the owners could tap that equity to invest in repairing or replacing their vehicles.

Things soured over the past decade, as the forces of raw capitalism ran amok, driving the price of a medallion up to $377,000—putting it out of reach of smaller operators, and consolidating many in the hands of a few. . . . Thanks to this setup, drivers have to work brutal hours just to cover costs, often doing so at considerable risk to their health and safety.

People are going to continue to cut back on their spending, so increasing the cost of a ride probably isn’t going to help. The city needs to fix the system before raising the rates.