An Honest Fare

Christine Whelan | Posted on 03/15/10

Did the drivers mostly prey on out-of-towners? Longer trips? Drunk 20-somethings heading home at 3 a.m.? Old ladies? I'd wager that the drivers hit the most vulnerable riders, and that makes the whole thing even ickier.

Taken a New York City taxi in the last few years? Odds are you were overcharged.

The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission reported that some 36,000 drivers charged passengers the higher out-of-city rate, rather than the local in-city rate, at least once, and that about 3,000 drivers did it more than 100 times. That means that 75% of the city's 48,000 drivers overcharged someone at least once.

According to the findings of the investigation, the average fare hike was between $4 and $5 per ride - and some drivers overcharged hundreds of passengers. The inquiry began when someone complained about a taxi driver in Brooklyn.

New Yorkers have always had a love-hate relationship with cab drivers: We want them to be just reckless enough to get us where we want to go, on time, despite the wretched traffic. But we also want them to have change for a $20 or $50, speak impeccable English and limit their air fresheners to non-vomit-inducing scents. And since the Taxi and Limousine Commission can't fire 75% of its workforce all at once, we've now got one more thing to be concerned about. Is it a fair fare?

Did the drivers mostly prey on out-of-towners? Longer trips? Drunk 20-somethings heading home at 3 a.m.? Old ladies? I'd wager that the drivers hit the most vulnerable riders, and that makes the whole thing even ickier.

For honest cabbies, this news is a kick in the gut. In a great little piece in The Daily News, Christina Boyle interviewed "good Samaritan" taxi drivers who have ferried folks across the country, returned thousands in jewelry and money and, let's not forget the matchmaker taxi driver who made headlines a few years back.

Next time you're in a New York City taxi, bring it up with the driver. Ask him (or in rare cases, her) to share an opinion on the investigation and coverage. I bet it'll make for an interesting-and accurately priced-ride.

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