The state Public Service Commission has granted Baltimore taxi cab drivers an emergency 9 percent increase because of rising gasoline prices.
The rate increase, which was opposed by two cab owners and the Office of the People's Counsel, boosts the price of an average cab ride from $4.40 to $4.80 effective immediately. An average ride, according to the commission, is 3.8 miles long with two minutes of waiting time.
Under the terms of the emergency increase granted yesterday, the cab companies will not increase the rent that drivers must pay for cabs; the full amount of the increase will go to the cab driver, who must pay for the gasoline.
The temporary increase will remain in effect until the PSC rules on a request for a permanent rate increase sought by the cab companies. That would raise the cost of an average cab ride by about 95 percent, from $4.40 to $8.48. The commission will defer a decision until hearings are held.
The temporary increase is "long overdue and greatly justified," said William J. Rubin, the attorney representing the cab companies. But he stressed that the emergency rate increase should not postpone prompt action on the permanent increase. "The permanent rate increase is desperately needed," he said. "There is a dire emergency."
Baltimore cab companies, which have not had a rate increase since 1984, say they need the increase because of higher fuel and insurance costs and the climbing expense of equipment and maintenance.
Both rate increases are supported by the major companies of Yellow Cab Co., Sun Cab Co. and Royal Taxi Cab and Teamsters Local 355, the union that represents drivers at Yellow and Sun.
However, two cab owners at the meeting objected to both the temporary and permanent rate increase, saying it would drive away passengers.
"Every time we get a rate increase, we lose patronage," said Leonard Weinstein, 68, who has driven a cab for 48 years and owns one that operates in the Royal association. He said the last time that rates went up in 1984, it took two years for customers "to get used to it."
James J. Delaro, another owner and operator of a cab in the Royal association, echoed Weinstein's opposition: "If the drivers wanted a fuel increase, they would be here."
Donald F. Rogers, the assistant People's Counsel, opposed the temporary increase because the companies' 1989 ratios of expenses to revenues was better than the standard used by the commission for regulated businesses.
He also cited past rate cases where the cab companies did not provide sufficient evidence to support their case.