San Francisco cab fares could hit new record

Cab rates could be going up — probably by a lot — for passengers in San Francisco.

While the details are still being hammered out, early recommendations for rate increases include a $5 surcharge for passengers being picked up at their homes during peak times, and higher costs based on miles traveled and time stuck in a cab.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates cabs in The City, made initial recommendations to increase meter rates by 10 cents for every one-fifth of a mile traveled, and 10 cents for every minute stuck in traffic. There are also recommendations for fuel surcharges — which would add an extra dime for every one-fifth of a mile traveled and minute struck in traffic — if gas prices continue to stay high.

Currently, if a passenger gets picked up on a Friday night and travels three miles with three minutes stuck in traffic, the cost would be $11.20. Under the initial recommendations from the SFMTA, that cost would skyrocket to $19.80 (provided the fuel surcharges are in place).

Right now, San Francisco’s meter rates for time and distance are in the middle of the pack when compared to other cities nationwide. If the proposed rate increases are approved along with the fuel surcharges, San Francisco would be the costliest of the 12 cities studied by the SFMTA, including Los Angeles and New York. San Francisco resident Steven Dietschy said any fare increase for taxicabs would be a bad idea.

“San Francisco is already expensive enough,” Dietschy said. “I don’t think it’s necessary to increase the cost of taking a cab.”

The SFMTA convened a series of taxi town hall meetings last week to pitch the new fare recommendations. Based on driver feedback, elements of the fare proposal could be increased, decreased or dropped altogether, agency spokesman Paul Rose said.

On Monday, the SFMTA will hold another town hall meeting at its Taxi Advisory Committee, where the final fare increase recommendations will be defined, Rose said. The following day, the agency’s board of directors could authorize the new increases. Rose did not know when the rates would take effect if approved.

There hasn’t been a cab meter increase in San Francisco since 2003. Cabbies say rising fuel prices, the struggling economy, and the increasing cost of renting out vehicles have made it exceedingly difficult to make a living.

Mark Gruberg, spokesman for the United Taxicab Workers, a drivers’ organization, noted that since the last meter increase in 2003, inflation has increased prices by 19 percent.

“I think a fare increase is a positive thing and it’s justified,” said Gruberg. “Every worker deserves a raise based at least just on inflation.”

Meter rate comparison, by mileage

Chicago: $1.80
New York: $2.00
San Francisco: $2.25*
Philadelphia: $2.30
Seattle: $2.50
Los Angeles: $2.70
San Francisco: $2.75**
Boston, San Diego: $2.80
San Francisco: $3.25***

Source: SFMTA

**proposed without fuel surcharge
***proposed with fuel surcharge

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