SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 18, 2013

Taxi rate hike put on hold

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — Taxi owners looking for a fare increase were left waiting at the curb last night.

A City Council subcommittee voted 2-1 to postpone a decision on whether it should raise the cost of a cab ride in the city for the first time in nine years.

Councilors were sympathetic to a request by cab companies to raise the rate, which is set by the City Council, but wanted more information before making a decision.

“I’m willing to support an increase,” Councilor Scott Houseman said. “It’s just a matter of what the increase is.”

Beverly currently allows taxis to charge $4 for the first sixth-tenths of a mile and $1.25 for each mile thereafter. At the request of Nyd-a-ryd Transportation owner Dennis Soper, City Council President Paul Guanci has proposed raising the initial rate from $4 to $5.50.

But Tri-City Taxi owner Igor Likhterov said it’s the $1.25 rate for the subsequent miles that should be raised to best help cab companies.

“Everybody else is around $3 for the second mile,” Likhterov said. “We cannot operate for $1.25 per mile.”

The math became confusing at some points, with councilors and cab owners comparing rates among various communities based on different fractions of a mile.

Councilors asked if there was any standardization in the industry in terms of applying rates. North Shore Taxi general manager Sean McKinnon said there is not.

“It varies in every city,” McKinnon said.

McKinnon said it would benefit both taxi riders and drivers if North Shore communities had the same rate. People who take a cab ride from Beverly to Danvers, for instance, end up paying two different rates for one ride.

“If we can get one regular rate and one senior (discount) rate in Salem, Beverly and Danvers, it would go a long way in making it less confusing for the people and the drivers,” McKinnon said.

Cab company owners said the rates should be boosted to keep up with the increase in gas, insurance, repairs and other costs. Houseman asked the owners what kind of customers they served, saying he assumed they were not “an affluent community.”

McKinnon said his company drives everyone from businessmen to college students to senior citizens to people who don’t own a car.

“It runs the gamut,” he said. “I feel that we serve a good cross-section of the city.”

Councilor Don Martin proposed raising Beverly’s rate to $5.25 for the first mile. But Soper said that is barely an increase over the current $4 for sixth-tenths of a mile.

Guanci said it seemed like the committee was “trying to over-regulate a group of small businesses trying to make a living.”

“We’re trying to determine what’s fair,” Martin said. “Nobody’s anti-business.”

The committee ended up voting 2-1 to put the matter on hold, which will most likely postpone a decision until the fall. Guanci and Houseman voted in favor of holding it, while Martin voted against.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.