(Bloomberg News) New York City's Taxi & Limousine Commission approved a 17 percent fare increase for yellow cabs, giving drivers their first raise since 2006.
The agency voted 6 to 2 with one abstention to approve the change at a meeting in Manhattan today. They rejected an increase in how much fleet owners may charge drivers who lease cabs from them, while permitting independent driver-owners who lease out their vehicles part-time to charge more.
Starting in September, the cost of an average taxi ride will rise $2 to about $15, said Allan Fromberg, a commission spokesman. That means a driver will take home an average of $160 after a 12-hour shift, up from $130, said commission Chairman David Yassky.
"It is time for a raise, and I think the public understands that," Yassky said at the meeting. "The public is prepared to pay more for taxi drivers to make a living."
Cab meters will click 50-cent increments for each fifth of a mile (0.3 kilometer) traveled, or for each minute in stopped or slow traffic, up from 40 cents. A ride between John F. Kennedy International Airport and Manhattan will rise to $52 from $45, plus tolls. The Newark Liberty International Airport surcharge will be $17.50, up from $15.
The increase places New York fourth in cost for an average taxi ride, behind Tokyo, San Francisco and Los Angeles, according to a commission comparison of 12 cities with large numbers of taxi riders. New York's 13,000 yellow cabs carry about 600,000 people in 450,000 trips each day, Fromberg said.
Fleet owners, represented by the Metropolitan Taxi Cab Board of Trade, opposed the new fares, saying they also should have been permitted to charge drivers more to lease cabs. Drivers pay a fleet owner about $120 to $130 a day for use of a cab and its medallion, or operating license.
Cabbies also pay for gasoline and a 5 percent fee to the fleet owner for each fare paid with a credit card, which averages about $8 a day -- a gripe among hacks since 2007, when the city began requiring the payment option.
Today's vote makes the fleet owners responsible for the credit-card fees and requires drivers to pay owners an additional $9 a day to defray the cost.
'Justice' for Drivers
Drivers haven't had an across-the-board boost since 2004, when rates rose 26 percent. In 2006, the meter charge for cabs in slow or standing traffic climbed to 40 cents per minute from 40 cents every two minutes. A 50-cent surcharge on all taxi rides enacted in 2009 goes to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, not to drivers or fleet owners.
"We're very excited today that justice has been done," said Mohamed Bolouch, 52, a Moroccan immigrant and cab driver for nine years. "We're not trying to be rich millionaires. We're just trying to provide food for our children."
Five of the commission's nine members are selected by each of the borough delegations in the City Council and four by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supported the fare increase.
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.