Cabdrivers and company owners, giving impassioned pleas for economic help, called inadequate a proposed 40-cent-per-ride increase presented by the D.C. Taxicab Commission at a public hearing yesterday.
Those in the standing-room-only crowd who supported a larger, per-zone fare increase were enthusiastically applauded.
The proposed interim rate increase presented by the commission for public comment was a compromise reached by some commission members and Chairman Arrington L. Dixon in November after months of political bickering and turf battles. At the time, Dixon said he accepted the per-ride proposal instead of a staff-recommended zone increase get the commission to act on a fare increase.
The 40-cent-per-ride proposal received little support as company owners and drivers argued that, having waited 2 1/2 years since the last fare increase, they deserved more money. Also, drivers are concerned about offsetting an expected mandatory insurance increase of $754 a year per driver that may go into effect as soon as January.
"Don't throw me a bone," said cabdriver Vance Gay as other drivers applauded. "Give me the whole meal. You can keep your 40 cents."
Gay and other speakers said they were concerned that the approval of an interim increase would slow the commission's move to grant a permanent increase. The commission, in turn, is hoping that an interim increase will help cabdrivers keep up with increased expenses while the commission does a full study on industry needs. The study is expected to take about a year.
No decision will be made for at least six weeks on what, if any, interim rate increase will be granted, according to commission spokesman David Watson. Comments will be accepted until Dec. 13. The commission will meet in January, when it is expected to vote on a fare increase. It is required to give proposals from yesterday's hearing "great weight" if the proposals are supported by factual material, Watson said.
Dan Smith, owner of about a dozen cab companies, made a joint proposal with three other cab company owners for a 23 percent increase per zone, which would add 30 cents to a single-zone ride and as much as $1.85 for crossing eight zones. An eight-zone ride would take a driver fron one end of the District to the other.
Smith bolstered the proposal with documents covering the cost of buying and maintaining cabs, the increased cost of gas and oil and the fees cabbies pay to drive for a company and to use company radios.
Smith attacked the commission proposal as "not supported by adequate findings of fact."
The only speaker to support the commission proposal was Fred Matthews, manager of Globe Cab Co. and the executive secretary of The Taxicab Industry Group. Matthews said the group represented 4,000 to 5,000 drivers in the city.