JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Taxi driver Duc Ngo, left, watched one of his colleagues pull away with customers Saturday at TheCab's taxi hub at Ala Moana Center.
City might let taxis raise mileage rates
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The city will consider raising taxi meter fares in light of record gas prices as cabdrivers also suffer from a downturn in tourism.
The city sets the maximum fare, but independent taxi drivers and dispatch companies determine how much to charge below that ceiling.
Dennis Kamimura, the city's licensing administrator, last increased the maximum cab fare in November 2005, when gas cost between $1.85 and $2.33 a gallon.
The City Council will weigh a bill on Wednesday creating a fuel surcharge for taxis.
PROPOSED MAXIMUM FEES
The city will consider raising taxi meter fares
Percent change: 10.7
Percent change: 6.6
Waiting charge ($0.40 each time period)
Former: 48 seconds
Proposed: 45 seconds Percent change: 6.6
Extra-large or heavy baggage, parcel or object charge
Percent change: 7.1
For a 10-mile trip
Percent change: 7
For a 20-mile trip
Percent change: 6.8
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Taxi driver Hayder Mazir said he is a "little bit stressed, little bit depressed" because of Honolulu's gas prices, which finally hit a record average of $4 a gallon on Oahu this weekend.
CAB FARE HEARING
The city will hold a public hearing to set a new maximum rate for taxicab fares and baggage from 8 to 9 a.m. June 13 at the Division of Motor Vehicles, Licensing and Permits, Chinatown Gateway Plaza, 1031 Nuuanu Ave., second floor.
Mazir, 45, a driver for TheCab, said he has to work six days a week, 12 hours a day, to recoup his losses and that he worries about his ability to continue supporting his wife and 11-year-old daughter.
Adding to the crunch from increased gas prices, taxi drivers are also facing a decline in tourists as visitor arrivals by air dropped 7.6 percent - some 44,000 visitors - in April.
"It's like a double whammy
because the price of gas went up and the number of fares are going down," said Wes Yamada, a driver for TheCab. "Cab driving is not a good business right now. ... Everybody's stressing out."
To ease the bleeding of Honolulu's 1,484 licensed cabdrivers, the city is looking this month at raising meter rates, while the City Council is expected this week to pass a bill authorizing the city to create a fuel surcharge.
In Honolulu, while the city sets the maximum fare, independent taxi drivers and dispatch companies determine how much they will charge the customer.
Dennis Kamimura, the city's licensing administrator, said he last increased the maximum cab fare in November 2005. At that time the city determined the maximum using state economic data from 2004, when gas was hovering between $1.85 and $2.33 a gallon.
Last month the city released its proposed mileage rate maximums - about a 7 percent
increase for a 10-mile trip, or $2.25 more for such a trip. The city will hold a hearing June 13 to discuss the proposed prices. If the mayor quickly signs the final proposal, the higher maximums could take effect as soon as next month.
The two largest taxi dispatchers in Honolulu - TheCab and Charley's Taxi - said they would support a higher maximum to help the drivers remain solvent.
"This meter increase will get them (the drivers) back to square one again," said Howard Higa, president of TheCab, which has about 650 drivers. "It doesn't really put more money into their pockets."
Yamada said he supports a fare increase because the higher gas prices cost about $6 extra a day in fuel, adding up to $144 in losses per month.
Some in the taxi industry, however, expressed concern that too steep a fare jump will only scare customers away.
Renette Rivera, who recently caught a cab from Ala Moana Center to Waikiki, said she was sympathetic with cabdrivers facing higher gas prices.
"I can see them raising it, because of the gasoline," she said, but added that she would stop using taxis if the fare got too high.
In addition to the higher maximum for fares, some taxi dispatchers hope the Council passes a bill Wednesday authorizing the city to create a fuel surcharge. If approved, the city will determine the amount of the surcharge, which will expire
every six months.
Dale Evans, president of Charley's Taxi, said she has pushed for a fuel surcharge since the 1980s because it gives taxi operators the ability to adjust to changing market pressures.
In contrast, the city re-evaluates the maximum for fares once every two years, and those evaluations are based on data at least a year old.
Licensing administrator Kamimura did not raise meter fares on the biennial mark last November because a majority of cabs still charged below the maximum, he said.
Kamimura, who will develop the rules for the proposed fuel surcharge, said that if the bill passes it will not go into effect until at least December.