Any attendee who is taking a cab to a meeting point in Chicago; Dallas; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Seattle; Washington, DC; Houston; Miami; or Fort Worth will notice an extra dollar or so tagged on as a fuel surcharge. For cabs in Las Vegas, San Diego, Cleveland, and Orlando, the metered rate is higher for the same reason—the price of gas.
"Most taxi drivers pay for their own fuel—an expense directly out of their own pockets," said Alfred Lagasse, CEO of the Rockville, MD-based Taxicab, Limousine, and Paratransit Association. "We don't receive subsidies like public transport. Airlines, cruise ships, and all forms of transit have a fuel surcharge these days, or a permanent rate increase. Fuel costs have had a significant impact on all transportation carriers."
Although taxi drivers in many cities have enacted fuel surcharges, not every city has seen it. "I was just in San Francisco, and there were no fuel surcharges from the taxis," noted Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM, president and chief strategist of Strategic Meetings & Events. However, "our transportation company [had] a fuel surcharge—which I paid without question, as I fully understand that their cost of business has risen, while the demand for their services has dropped. We now estimate a 15-percent [difference] in our travel budgets for ground [transportation] and 25-percent for air price fluctuations between contract signing and event execution."
In the Big Apple, the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission is holding out. "We looked at the issue carefully, balancing all of the variables—including the industry's overall health, driver earnings, and a surcharge's potential negative impact on passengers and ridership—and believe that a surcharge is not warranted ... We will continue to monitor the situation closely," Matthew W. Daus, chairman and commissioner of the city agency, said in a public statement.
One spokesperson at the commission told MeetingNews that "the price of fuel has come down. We don't expect to hear those cries for fuel surcharges again."
"That's just not true," said Lagasse. "Fuel costs are still significantly higher and will probably remain so. We encourage cities to reevaluate their fare structures to make sure that [they are] reasonable and to allow the taxicab industry to remain profitable."
The surcharges and fare increases are changing the habits of MaryAnne Bobrow, CAE, CMP, CMM, of Citrus Heights, CA-based Bobrow and Associates. "I used to always take taxis but now often weigh the convenience against the cost and will sometimes rent a car instead," said Bobrow. "What it means is leaving even earlier to drop off the rental car when returning home, but sometimes the savings is substantial."
All of which means that in cities where fuel surcharges have been enacted, they are likely to remain in place. And where they haven't, it is only a matter of time before increases.
Originally published Oct. 20, 2008