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Taxi board agrees on $1 fuel surcharge

A month after the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission voted to raise the base price of a taxi ride by 50 cents, commissioners have agreed to allow cab drivers to charge a $1 fuel surcharge for fares over $10.

Commissioners gave final approval to the base fare increase from $1.25 to $1.75 on Wednesday, and also voted to give drivers the optional $1 surcharge because of rising gas prices.

"It appeared to me that we are in a state right now that the individual contractors, the drivers, were in need of some assistance," Greg Cox, the commission's executive director, said about the $1 surcharge.

Cox said Department of Energy data shows gas prices usually peak sometime around May and drop off after June.

"This year, I've noted the rates have jumped up starting in January," Cox said. "We're already at a peak that has previously been associated with June. If (gas prices) are still climbing, who knows where they will be in June and what effect that will have."

The surcharge is optional and only on fares over $10, Cox said, so those who rely on cabs as their primary transportation for regular short trips won't feel the pinch.

"The commission doesn't want to put any more financial strain on those moms and dads out there who use taxi cabs to go to the grocery store or the doctor's," Cox said.

Some of the county's cab drivers said they will opt not to charge the extra $1 on fares over $10 to avoid upsetting customers. "If you ask them for the extra dollar, you jeopardize your tip," said Jean Bourdeau, who drives for Yellow Cab.

"It's not going to solve the problem," said Bonhomme Idalbert, also a Yellow Cab driver. "I'm not going to ask customers for $1 more. I know the customer won't give it to me."

Bourdeau and other cabdrivers said raising the mileage rate would put more money in their pockets than asking customers for an extra dollar. The commission has said it will revisit mileage rates this summer.

While the 50-cent hike is a permanent increase designed to bring Tampa's cab rates closer to the base price of similar cities, Cox said, the $1 surcharge is a "temporary measure."

The commission will review the additional charge every 30 days and vote on whether to keep it in place, Cox said.

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