Gas cost may hit cab fares

Companies asking city to hike basic flag-drop rate by 43 percent

Posted: Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Juneau residents might soon see an increase in their taxi fares.

As gasoline prices continue rising, two taxi companies are asking the city to raise the meter's starting point - the flag drop rate - from the current $2.10 to $3. There wouldn't be any change in the mileage rate.

"We used to spend between 30 and 40 bucks a day to fill a cab. Now it costs between 50 and 60 bucks a day," said Andrew Beattie, owner of Capital Cab. The company has 20 taxis in its fleet.

"We don't want to hurt our clients but we don't want to lose our business either," Beattie said.

AAA reported Juneau's gas price has reached a record high. The price for unleaded fuel on Tuesday was $2.54 per gallon, 61 cents more than the price at the same time last year. Between April and May, the price for unleaded gas has increased by 34 cents.

"We consider it a crisis right now," said J.C. Harris, owner of Juneau Taxi and Tours.

With the 90-cent increase in the flag drop rate, taxi drivers could recoup $10.80 to $15.30 per day. Last year, the city raised the flag drop rate from $2 to $2.10.

Owners of Capital Cab and Juneau Taxi and Tours said once the gas price goes down, they would ask the city to lower the rate.

"The fuel price has seriously taken away the amount of money the drivers have in their hands at the end of the day," Beattie said. "But we don't want to impose any more costs to our clients and make our services unaffordable."

Randy Huls, a driver of Capital Cab, said when he started working as a taxi driver a year ago, he spent $30 for gas per day. Now he spends $40 on gas every day. "There is really nothing we can do except doing the surcharge," Huls said.

The Assembly will hold a public hearing on the proposal May 23. If the Assembly approves it, the new fee would take effect in late June.

Beattie said the taxi industry might be the last one to raise its price to offset rising fuel costs.

Since October, the Alaska Marine Highway System has added a 10 percent fuel surcharge for vehicles and staterooms due to the rising price of crude oil.

Stan Lee, owner of Excel Towing, used to pride himself in offering the cheapest rate in town. He had to raise his price two weeks ago. The towing fee for a five-mile trip now averages $60, a $10 increase.

"Other towing companies had to raise their prices, too," Lee said. "When you are towing a vehicle, you are going through a lot of gas."

The fuel price increase hasn't affected city operations.

But City Manager Rod Swope said the city underestimated the fuel price by $180,000. He said the city's 2005 budget projected the diesel fuel at $1.60 per gallon. For year 2006, he projects the diesel price at $2 per gallon. He encourages employees to carpool and keep office temperatures at 68 degrees.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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