An "emergency" rate increase that will boost the cost of the average taxi ride in Los Angeles by about 17% was recommended Thursday by unanimous vote of the Board of Transportation commissioners.
The increase, which would be the first since 1980-81, is necessary to offset sharp boosts in liability insurance for taxicabs in the city, according to a report to the commission by the city Department of Transportation.
The commissioners said the rate increase should be for an interim period of 120 days, during which the five city-franchised taxicab companies and two independent associations must provide detailed cost figures on their operations, including the extent of their insurance coverage increases, so Department of Transportation staffers can determine more precisely whether the fare hike is justified.
The annual liability insurance for one company jumped from $1,320 per cab in 1984 to $8,520 per cab this year, the report said. Other operators said they have been quoted annual premiums of $8,400 to $9,700 per cab. Kenneth E. Cude, head of the franchise and transit services division of the Department of Transportation, said the average taxi ride in Los Angeles is four miles and costs an average of $7.20. The same trip would cost $8.45 after the fare increase, up 17%.
The rate from Los Angeles International Airport to downtown, now a flat $22, would go up to $24 plus a $2.50 surcharge for airport passenger pickup. There would be no surcharge for passengers picked up downtown and taken to LAX. The "flag drop" fee--in effect, the cost of simply getting into the cab--would remain $1.90 for the first fifth of a mile. Additional distance would be charged at the rate of 20 cents per each eighth of a mile, instead of 20 cents per seventh of a mile under the rate structure now.
Waiting time or time spent in traffic delays would also be more expensive. Under the rates now, the initial $1.90 buys 84 seconds of waiting time, and each additional minute costs 20 cents. After the increase, the initial $1.90 would provide 64 seconds of waiting time, and additional waiting time would cost 20 cents per each 40 seconds.
The commission's recommendations will go to the City Council's Transportation and Traffic Committee on July 18, then to the full City Council, and finally to the mayor.
Cude said the new interim fare structure could go into effect in the last week of the month if it receives quick approval all down the line.
Carl Melvin, president of the Independent Taxi Owners Assn., said Los Angeles' taxi industry is in a "depression" and, with insurance rates expected to "double or triple," at least 25% of the driver-owners would be put out of business without an immediate increase in fares.