NEW FOR THURSDAY: City Council Rejects Taxi Rate Increase

OCEAN CITY – A taxi owner’s request to increase the 10th of a mile rate was denied this week but the industry was given the right to add a $1 surcharge once gas prices hit $4 a gallon.

Kevin Lyons, owner of Community Cab, requested an increase in taxi cab base fare rates and a change in the taxi indicator roof light to an advertising carrier.

“There is a consensus among a lot of the owners and drivers that fuel is becoming a real major concern for us, and we were respectfully hoping that we could have our rates raised,” Lyons said.

Lyons said the request was based upon increased costs of fuel, insurance, maintenance, repairs, etc., and at first suggested to offset expenses by increasing the taxi cab rate to a base fare of $3.60 from $3.20.

“After talking and doing a little bit of research, we kind of feel that would probably not be the smart thing to do in the interest of being fair to everybody,” Lyons said.

Next he suggested that the 10th of a mile rate be increase to 26 or 27 cents from 22 cents.

Attached to Lyons request was a petition signed by 28 Ocean City taxi owners requesting the items be approved.

“As we all know, fuel prices are going to be a major issue coming up this summer and in past summers so I agree with the request,” Councilman Brent Ashley said as he set a motion to increase the 10th of a mile rate to 26 cents.

Councilwoman Mary Knight pointed out that the increase would result in a rider having to pay $30 from the downtown area to the Delaware line.

In addition to the fare increase, Lyons proposed that taxis add a $1 surcharge per fare once gas prices reach $4 per gallon. According to Lyons, fuel is anticipated to continue to rise up to the $5 per gallon range in the next year.

“I would feel a lot more comfortable with that [$1 surcharge) than paying $30 to go that amount of distance,” said Knight, adding that cabbies are not the only individuals dealing with increased expenses.

Councilman Joe Hall said that he did not agree with the price to travel from downtown to the north end of town either but the price reflects what the market bears.

“I know that we need to fight the idea that we are gouging our customers,” he said. “That is not what we’re doing. What we are doing is trying to get the right amount of revenue to balance service and be able to make a living to sustain our business and our family. That is the reality.”

Joe Hall added that riders have an alternative to the pricey cab fare and that is the $3 all-day pass or $1-per-ride bus fare.

“I am going to vote for it because I think you know your own money and I think that people are going to object to riding in your cab,” Council President Jim Hall said. “Honestly, this is going to hurt you all … I think you are making a mistake but this is your money.”

Council Secretary Lloyd Martin said the North Ocean City Business Alliance voiced at a meeting on Tuesday morning that that cab fare prices are already too high.

“People can’t afford to go from one end of town to the other or one bar to the other … it is too much and you know what, it is almost better to take a chance and drive,” he said

The council voted down the increase to the 10th of a mile rate but turned around and approved a $1 surcharge to become effective once gas prices hit $4 a gallon.

Lyons’ last request was to give taxi owners the option to change the taxi indicator light to an advertising carrier, which is used in other areas. He said that the sign would potentially allow taxi owners to earn approximately $1,200 in revenue for the year to help defray the rising costs of insurance, maintenance, repairs and the cost of purchasing newer vehicles.

“We have historically been against those but times have changed a little bit and we do it with our city vehicles,” Jim Hall said.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas added that the ad carriers need to be uniform in size and the language was added to the motion to approve the request, which was unanimously approved.