Pricey cab rides could get pricier

Less than two years after the last price hike, the meter rates for San Francisco’s taxicabs could see another increase that would likely push The City’s rates to the highest in the nation.

San Francisco taxi prices were last increased in November 2006, when the fee to begin a cab ride, or the flag-drop rate, went up 25 cents to $3.10 — the second-highest rate in the nation, trailing only Las Vegas.

Since that increase, however, the average price of gas in San Francisco has risen from $2.51 a gallon to $4.02, according to Michael Geeser of the AAA.

To see if San Francisco can bump up its rates to keep up with increased fuel costs, the acting executive director of The City’s taxi commission, Jordanna Thigpen, requested that the Controller’s Office expedite its two-year report on the cab industry to see if the study shows support for the price hike.

“With the cost of gas continuing to rise, our drivers are clearly concerned about the effect it’s having on their income,” Thigpen said.

The report is scheduled to be finished by August 1, but Thigpen is asking for a June 15 date so legislators will have an earlier start on implementing suggestions.

The Board of Supervisors would have to create and pass legislation for any meter increases to take effect.

Because of the increased costs, cabbies are paying an average of $50 for gas during an eight-hour shift, said Mark Gruberg, who has been driving a taxi in San Francisco for more than 20 years. On average, a cab driver takes home $100 a shift, which translates into about $24,000 a year, he said.

“Any time rates are raised, there is concern,” Gruberg said. “We don’t want the hardship to be on the customer, but you hope it’s balanced off by the fact that people know we have to earn a living.”

The last time all three meter prices — flag drop, per-mile rates, and rates per minute spent waiting — were raised was in 2003, when gas cost $1.78 a gallon. San Francisco cabs now charge $2.25 per mile and 45 cents per idle minute.

San Francisco resident Julie Mikuta, waiting to catch a cab downtown, said she travels frequently to other cities and San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to catch a cab.

“I know I’m going to be paying at least $10 just to go a couple of miles,” Mikuta said. “That’s pretty crazy.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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