A proposal to raise city taxi fares by 20 cents per fare is expected to be presented to the D.C. Public Service Commission today by taxi industry lobbyists who worked out the increase in negotiations with the commission's people counsel.
The fare increase proposal, about 8 per cent citywide for the District's complicated zone system, is opposed by at least one taxi association, which fears any increase now would hurt business.
Melvin Doxie, executive director of the PSC, called the negotiations out of the ordinary and said "it is unusual for the people's counsel to take the side of the group asking for a rate increase."
But People's Counsel Brian Lederer said the agreement with the taxi industry group was in the public's interest, saying that working out the proposed increase in advance avoids a long "cumbersome trial and negotiations" before the PSC, which must decide if and when any increase would take effect.
"I'm taking the side of the riding public to make sure we have a sound taxicab industry," Lederer said.
If the PSC approves the negotiated increase, the cost of a ride in a subzone of zone 1, which covers most of downtown, would go from $1.45 to $1.65, a three-zone ride that now costs $2.85 would cost $3.05, and the price of an eight-zone ride from downtown to the city limits would rise from $6.35 to $6.55.
Earlier this year, the PSC ordered the first study of the zone fare system in 16 years. Doxie said the study should be completed in several months, and would be followed by public hearing.
Several taxi companies, independent drivers and the people's counsel, which represents the public at PSC hearings, said current fares have not kept pace with driver's skyrocketing fuel and other operating costs. The last taxi fare increase here, an average of 13 percent, was granted by the PSC in October of last year.
According to an independent economic study commissioned by the people's counsel, overall operating costs for drivers increased more than 14 percent. Gasoline costs alone, which account for about 40 percent of operating costs, rose 34.58 percent since the last fare increase.
"We feel some type of increase is needed to offset our costs," said William Wright, head of the Taxicab Industry Group, an organization that represents most of the city's cab companies.
Wright's group originally had proposed a 10-cent-per-person interim fare increase while the commission considers another TIG proposal for a 20 percent increase across the board in cab fares.
Norman Saunders, spokesman for the Alliance of Taxicab Bussinessmen, which opposes the increase, said his group believes that a fare hike at this time "would price ourselves above a large segment of people in the city." Saunders said his group favors a change in the zone map that would decrease the size of zone one, where cab drivers do their greatest business.