The taxi rolled lazily along the streets of Ithaca Wednesday afternoon. The temperature had reached a seasonal high of 72 degrees and the taxicab driver was able to roll the windows down of his silver sedan to better enjoy the warm weather. “Car Sixty is clear. Heading downtown,” he said into his earbud.
“It’s slow today,” the cab driver, Milton McKinley, said. “Usually they’re a lot more people than this,” referring to the amount of customers he had received that day.
February 3 marked the date that the City of Ithaca announced the official Taxicab Rates and Regulations that were implemented throughout the city limits. McKinley, a taxi driver for Collegetown Cab, has been hearing mixed reviews about this new city wide policy.
“Some people haven’t been too happy,” said McKinley “Customers who are so used to same rates, when I tell them the rate has gone up they think I’m trying to pull a fast one on them.” McKinley said he often has to call his dispatcher in the office to confirm for the customer that the prices have truly increased.
“Y’know people get into the cab and they don’t know the rates have gone up, and by the time it’s time pay the fare, there goes all the money they brought with them,” said McKinley.
The City of Ithaca’s previous Taxicab Zones and Rates, established in 2006, divided Ithaca into 6 different zones.
The cab rates varied depending on the zone of pickup and drop off, the gallons gas used were added and surcharges needed to be calculated. The Taxicab Rates and Regulations that was passed on February 3rd, eliminates the need to make such gas consumption and surcharge calculations.
“From the city’s perspective… our number one priority was to make the price rates more understandable for the people who use taxi cabs. So that somebody, no matter what your income level is, you could understand and depend on what the rate structure would be when you called a cab,” said Julia Conely Holcomb, the Ithaca City Clerk for the Department of Public Information and Technology.
This new taxicab legislation has been circulating throughout Ithaca for a few months now. Taxicab Rate Cards are being drafted that will be posted inside of all taxicab vehicles.
“Our goal with the new taxi cab legislation was to work collaboratively with the cab companies. We worked together and found ways that we could meet the taxi companies’ goals and increase their fares so they could pay their drivers a living wage, so they could pay all their benefits that they offered to the drivers, as well as all over their overhead costs,” said Holcomb.
Ithaca is a popular tourist destination and effective public transportation is essential to maintaining a healthy tourist base anywhere. The Taxicab Rates and Regulations are posted on the City of Ithaca’s website, includes a revised taxicab-sharing policy intended to increase the amount of people being carpooled while taking a cab-ride.
This often includes the tip money that cab drivers learn to rely on. The drivers at CollegeTown Cab are paid through a commission process as opposed to tips, and are therefore not dependent on tip revenue.
“The tips definitely help,” said McKinley.
“Turns out, this is a very complicated topic,” said Holcomb. “We know it’s not convenient for everyone to come to public meetings… but we are very open and we are really interested in hearing on what people are thinking and have to say about this to make more informed decisions in the future.”