Taxi And Limousine Commission Approves Fare Increases, Health Care For Drivers

Cabbies Win Major Victory, While NYC’s Rates Remain Below Other Big Cities

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It will soon cost you more to take a cab in New York City.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission voted Thursday to approve a proposed fare increase. The vote was approved 6-2, with one abstention.

The base fare of $2.50 won’t change, but the mileage charge is rising, meaning the cost of the average ride would go up by 17 percent.

Other changes include a higher flat-rate fee for rides between Manhattan and John F. Kennedy International Airport, jumping from $45 to $52. The surcharge to go to Newark Liberty Airport would go from $15 to $17.50.

Taxi fares were last increased in 2005, but even with the hikes rates in New York City will still be lower than those paid in London, Las Vegas and Tokyo. The new rates will likely take effect in September because it takes time to recalibrate the meters and change fare stickers on the cabs.

Audience at Taxi and Limousine Commission meeting - New York, NY - Jul 12, 2012 (credit: Rich Lamb / WCBS 880)Audience at Taxi and Limousine Commission meeting – New York, NY – Jul 12, 2012 (credit: Rich Lamb / WCBS 880)

The commission also approved health care for taxi drivers. Beresford Simmons said he knows first hand how different his life will be.

“I was sick in the hospital and we had no health care. I had congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and I still have to work to take care of my family,” Simmons told CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer.

A sea of yellow on the streets of New York City has been Qaiser Hashmi’s world for 13 years. He told Kramer he’s a driver who lives humbly in a $1,000-per-month Ozone Park apartment, and supports an extended family.

“It has been very hard. It’s very hard living, working for 12 hours behind the wheel and you make $110,” Hashmi said. “From six years we had the last fare hike. Since then my daily expenses have gone up from anywhere from $50 to $60.”

And it’s not just gas and tolls. The cost of bread and food has skyrocketed, while Hashmi’s salary has been stagnant. He said the new rate may give him as much as $150 per shift, which could change his life.

“I wouldn’t call it luxury, but at least I’ll be able to live a comfortable life,” Hashmi said.

Bhairavi Desai, the founding member of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, called Thursday’s vote a moment of triumph.

“So many drivers fall ill from this job, have to go to work injured, after chemotherapy sessions,” Desai said. “The idea that taxi drivers have health care and disability on this job is a joy that is just unspeakable.”

The Taxi and Limousine Commission said its main goal in raising fares was to give drivers a better life.

“The numbers are clear. They are indisputable. They are stark. Over the past six years gas is up, taking $40 out of every taxi driver’s shift. If you have an industry based on a work force not earning enough to put food on the table then that’s not a stable situation,” TLC Chairman David Yassky told CBS 2′s Kramer.

The commission held a public hearing on Monday to discuss the plan. Outside the hearing, taxi cab drivers chanted “Together united, we’ll never be defeated!” in their support of the proposed fare increase.

And on Thursday, they finally earned their victory.

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