Oak Park’s cab companies are pursuing an extra fee to help battle surging gas prices.
The two village-licensed taxi providers-Red Cab and Blue Cab-are hoping to implement a “fuel surcharge,” which would charge a flat-rate increase whenever gas prices rise above a certain point.
As proposed by the two companies, when Oak Park’s average gas retail price exceeds $3.70 per gallon for seven consecutive days, customers would pay an added $1.50 for each cab ride. If prices exceed $4.20 for seven days, the fee would jump to $2.
Red Cab President and co-owner Gina Koontz Gamal said her company started pursuing the charge after Chicago implemented a similar one ($1 for over $3.20 per gallon) last month.
Taxi rates are set by village ordinance and must be approved by the village board.
The companies are requesting the change to help relieve cab drivers, who are struggling to make a profit, she said. Back in 2005, when the Red and Blue cab got a meter-rate increase, gas was $2.20 and cab drivers paid around $35 to fill their tanks.
Now it’s costing between $60 and $70 per day. Koontz Gamal estimated about 9 percent of her drivers have left Red Cab in the past month because of higher gas prices and warm weather driving down business.
“It’s getting to the point where it’s not a livable wage for them,” Koontz Gamal said.
The surcharge would go straight into the drivers’ pockets, and would not increase the two companies’ bottom lines, she said.
If gas prices decrease, then so would the surcharge. However, if they continue to rise, Koontz Gamal said it might make more sense to raise the meter rates.
Taxi fares last went up In November 2005, also in response to gas prices. Rates rose for the flag pull from $1.80 for the first 1/12th of a mile to $2.25 for the first 2/19ths of a mile, according to Wednesday Journal reports at the time. Additional mileage charges rose from $1.60 a mile to $1.90 a mile, and the charge for three minutes of waiting time rose from $0.90 to $1.
Village Manager Tom Barwin said staff is analyzing the surcharge proposal and plans to gather feedback from the community. He then hopes to bring the proposal before the village board in June.
One concern, he said, is that someone taking a ride across Oak Park would pay the same surcharge as someone riding from here to O’Hare Airport.