March 21, 2012
City raises taxi fees, rate
Taxi businesses object to higher costs; seniors will pay 25 cents less
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Gene Holl, owner of Gene’s Taxi who contracts to Cortland-Silver Star Taxi, helps a customer load items Monday afternoon at Cortlandville Crossing shopping center in South Cortland.
A few local taxi drivers are unhappy with a city plan that increases basic fares to $5 but lowers fares for senior citizens and includes a hike in taxi operator fees.
David Losier runs his own taxi business, David’s Taxi, and earned just over $13,000 last year. With rising gas and repair costs, he says the new plan will make his profit margin even thinner.
“We’d like to live a normal life and make a decent living,” Losier said. “(These changes) are hard on us.”
The city is raising its basic fares 25 percent, from $4 to $5, but is lowering its rates for senior citizens from $3.25 to $3, a 7.6 percent decrease. It has the authority to control the rates through city code.
The city is also increasing annual taxi business license, vehicle registration and taxi driver license fees.
The city Common Council approved the new fares and fees 6-1 Tuesday, with Alderman John Bennett (D-4th Ward) voting against the proposal.
The city controls the fares within city limits. It has only adjusted the fare rates two times in the last 22 years, in 1990 and 2004.
Ron Dolly, owner of Cortland Taxi and Silver Star Taxi, said seniors make up a large portion of his business and wondered if other taxi companies would stop picking them up because of the fare reduction.
“You can’t cut the senior fare that much,” he said.
Dolly recommended raising the senior fare to $4.25, which would be a 15 percent discount from the $5 fare.
City Deputy Police Chief Paul Sandy, who crafted the proposal, said the goal of the new fares and fees is to raise revenue for the city while giving taxi drivers a higher basic fee.
Sandy said senior citizens on fixed-income need help and lowering their fare provides some assistance.
There are nine taxi businesses in the city, Sandy said.
The taxi business license fee will increase from $150 to $250; the vehicle registration will go from $20 to $75; and the taxi driver license will rise from $10 to $50.
The city expects to collect $4,950 through the fee raises, a $2,980 increase.
Bennett said that as a businessman, he is not sure if the city should be setting taxi fares at all.
“It’s hard for me as a city councilor to say this is something the city should control in an open marketplace society,” Bennett said.
Alderman Linda Ferguson (D- 7th Ward) said the city proposal was a “tough one” because the taxi drivers need the fare increases but seniors need the discount.
“I’m still concerned about our citizens,” she said.
In other business, the city approved spending $6,250 for the design costs for the repairs of four city bridges. City Public Works Superintendent Chris Bistocchi said the city plans to rehabilitate bridges on Rickard Street, Madison Street, Groton Avenue, and one at the intersection of Homer and Brown avenues.
The cost of the bridge rehabilitation will be $125,000. Bistocchi said the work will happen in 2013 and will include fortifying the bridges with structural steel, sidewalk excavation, curbing and other work.
The Common Council also approved 7-0 a resolution to apply for a state grant for up to $500,000. The grant is designed to help communities negatively affected by the presence of polluted former industrial sites, known as brownfields.
The city will focus its application on the neighborhoods near the Wickwire and Rosen sites in the South End and the Buckbee-Mears property on Kellogg Road.
The money would not go toward the cleanup of the brownfield areas but for planning, site analysis, possible reuse of the sites and marketing.
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