Council approves cab company’s fare hike

Staff Writer

By john burton

Council approves cab
company’s fare hike

RED BANK — The cost of taking a taxi within the borough will be going up as of Feb. 1.

At last week’s meeting, the Borough Council passed an ordinance that would permit the town’s lone cab company to raise some of its rates.

For one to two passengers traveling within either the east or west side of Maple Avenue, the fare charged by Yellow Cab will go up to $2.85, an increase of 50 cents.

Each additional passenger in excess of two costs another 50 cents, which will remain the same.

To go anywhere in the borough that requires crossing Maple Avenue to reach the destination, the fare will rise from $2.85 to $3.25.

The charge for waiting is set at a rate of $20 per hour, which is what it had been.

The last fare increase was in 1992, according to one of Yellow Cab’s owners, Andrew Curtin.

"It’s pretty obvious what has happened gasoline wise, insurance wise, repair wise," Curtin said, noting the increased cost of running his business makes the higher fares necessary.

Since the last fare increase, the cost of labor for automobile repairs has increased from $25-30 an hour to about $60 an hour, according to Curtin.

"That’s a killer," he said.

A majority of the council members, as well as the mayor, seemed to agree that the increase was reasonable and would not gouge those borough residents who rely on taxis for transportation.

"I’m very sympathetic as a small business owner myself," said Councilman Robert J. Bifani, who voted in favor of the increase.

Mayor Edward J. McKenna Jr. commended Curtin for showing restraint concerning the amount of increase requested.

"Taxi service is so important to our seniors and lower-income residents, but you have to make a living," McKenna said. "You’ve asked for something that’s fair instead of what you can get."

But Councilwoman Jennifer A. Beck expressed some reservations about granting the fare increase in light of complaints she received from residents.

"The amount of the increase we’re giving you is very small. It probably should be double or triple," Beck said. "It’s not the amount, it’s that we’ve heard from citizens about the condition of the cabs."

Beck said she has received a number of complaints from residents contending that the cabs are dirty and the drivers are rude.

"We had long-existing problems with this company," Beck said. "It seems silly to reward them before they make the repairs."

Beck suggested the council establish a six-month probationary period for Yellow Cab to evaluate its performance before approving the increase.

Councilman Pasquale Menna was also less than enthusiastic about the rat increase.

"I’m not comfortable with the way this was presented," he said.

As a regulated monopoly, Menna said Yellow Cab has an obligation to show why the increase is warranted.

"They didn’t divulge profits and losses," he said.

"It would be very improper for me to walk into your office and ask to see the books," Menna said to Curtin. "That would be improper, but we need facts and figures."

Curtin said he has upgraded his fleet of 27 taxis, with none of the models older than 1992. He also stressed that the drivers keep the cabs clean.

"We have tried to keep the cars clean; we stay on top of the drivers," Curtin said. "We do give good service."

Another impediment to the cab company’s business has been the elimination of taxi stands from the train station, according to Gary Damanti, an employee of Yellow Cab.

Prior to NJ Transit’s renovation of the station about two years ago, there were six parking spaces designated as cab stands. When the station was redone, those spaces were eliminated, Damanti said.

Technically, Damanti noted, cabs are commercial vehicles and cannot be parked on the street, which makes it difficult for drivers during shift changes. If a driver receives a summons for that, it is a mandatory court appearance, with the fine set by the judge.

The council approved the ordinance with a 4-to-1 vote, with Beck voting against it and Menna abstaining.

"We’ve had a pretty good relationship with the town and we don’t want to gouge the city," Curtin said. "We’ll do our best."