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Tipsy? Taxi! returns for St. Patrick's Day; How many calls will it drop this time?

Surely that's the first question to ask about the return of the free cab rides on St. Patrick's Day.

AAA Mid-Atlantic and Yellow Cab sponsor the rides on drinking high holidays to stem drunk driving.

But on New Year's Eve, the service received so many complaints that representatives of the State Highway Administration, a sponsor of the program, said they would have to re-examine how Tipsy? Taxi! is run.

In December, Yellow Cab missed about 18 percent of all Tipsy calls. And the waiting time for one of the cabs was as long as 45 minutes. As a result, there were only 92 rides on a free cab service that picks you up in front of a bar and drops you off in front of your house.

On Tuesday, AAA Mid-Atlantic announced an improved service would return for St. Patrick's Day. 

"Following the discussion on your blog regarding Tipsy? Taxi!, we wanted to reach to you directly as we gear up for St. Patrick's Day," AAA spokeswoman Christine Delise wrote Midnight Sun in an e-mail. "We've been working with our partners, [the State Highway Administration] and Yellow Cab, to discuss program enhancements, and in the short-term (sic) have added more staffing at the dispatch center to reduce call hold times."

The enhancements?

"Yellow Cab will be increasing their dedicated Tipsy? Taxi! phone operators from two to three," Delise wrote.

 The waiting time can still range from 15 to 45 minutes. But Delise said that, unlike on New Year's Eve when calls were concentrated to a few hours after midnight, on Thursday they should be more spread out.

"The number of revelers out at bars and restaurants tends to be much higher for that holiday [NYE] compared to St. Patrick's Day, especially when the next day is a day off for practically everyone," Delise wrote. 

The sponsors did make one significant change. The service on Thursday will be available starting at 4 p.m. and extending to 4 a.m., unlike on New Year's Eve, when it started at 8 p.m.

Beyond these changes, Delise said the sponsors did meet with the SHA to re-examine the program. They "came up with a few ideas to improve service" but they are still under evaluation.

Expanded hours of service and an additional phone operator are only modest improvements of a service, that, though commendable, may not be living up to its full potential.

But Delise defended the program's track record, if only on St. Patrick's Day.

"We have never had any issues from patrons regarding service on St. Patrick's Day during the five years the program has been operation (sic) for this holiday," she wrote.

Last year, she said, there were 172 Tipsy?Taxi! cab rides.

Delise pointed out that on Thursday participants are free to call Yellow Cab general manager Dwight Kines with complaints at 443-573-3416.

The rules for the service, for better or worse, are the same Thursday as they were on New Year's Eve:

Tipsy is only available by calling the special hotline (1-877-963-8294); it is free only up to $50 of cab fare; cabs will only pick up participants in front of a bar, and drop them off in front of a residence; and it is still available only to adults.

Like on New Year's Eve, Delise pointed out that the sponsors urged patience. 

"As with every holiday, Yellow Cab's full fleet will be on the road to serve St. Patrick's Day revelers. We give Tipsy? Taxi! calls priority, but because of the high demand, wait time may be length. We ask that customers be patient and persistent; if they get a busy signal, please dial again," she wrote.

Patient and persistent, that pretty much sums up your basic St. Paddy's Day drinker doesn't it?

Read more St. Patrick's Day coverage.

Photo: Tipsy? Taxi! announcement press conference in December (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun)

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