(Bloomberg) -- A New York City cab driver union is pressing the city to raise taxi fares, to boost wages for cabbies as fuel prices jump and inflation broadly soars, in a step that would boost the cost of a ride by as much as $2.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a 25,000-member union of yellow cab and Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. drivers, is asking a city panel to lift fares while limiting the fees that cabbies have to pay, so that drivers can take home $25 per hour after expenses. The current hourly average is closer to $10 to $12, according to the group.
The TLC is holding virtual hearings on Monday and Tuesday to seek public comment on changes to rates and driver pay. Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the union, says she anticipates some sort of fare hikes by early fall.
The increase would amount to as much as $2 more per trip for riders, according to the group. The city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission hasn’t boosted fares since 2012 for yellow taxis, which can pick up passengers in Manhattan, and green cabs, which can pick up passengers in other boroughs but not in the busiest parts of Manhattan.
“We need immediate action for the current economic crisis stemming from inflation,” Desai said. “We are calling on the city to do the right thing.”
The union is seeking higher pay for drivers after pandemic labor shortages, the war in Ukraine, years of loose monetary policy and other factors have resulted in outsized inflation across the U.S. economy. Regular gas costs about $5.05 per gallon now on average in the New York metro area, a record figure, according to the American Automobile Association. A month ago, that figure was $4.25, and a year ago, it was $3.18.
The payments that Uber and Lyft drivers receive, which are also regulated by the city’s TLC, are based on 2017 expense levels. The union is pushing for more money to stay with the drivers and not the companies.
Representatives for Uber and Lyft said their drivers were currently paid reasonably. A Lyft spokesman said its TLC-licensed drivers averaged more than 25% above the minimum pay standard in 2021. An Uber spokeswoman said in an emailed statement that drivers make $31.74 an hour.
“For-hire-vehicle drivers in NYC have the only minimum wage in the state with a yearly cost of living increase tied to the rate of inflation and now make $31.74 an hour while taxi drivers have not seen an increase since 2012,” the Uber spokeswoman said.
A spokesperson for Lyft said in an email that the company looks forward to “working with the TLC and its new leadership on ways to protect driver earnings while ensuring the ability to achieve our shared goals.”
David Do was confirmed this month as the chair and commissioner of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Both Uber and Lyft added a surcharge to fares in March to help cover rising gas costs for drivers, but that additional fee didn’t apply to New York City-based drivers. The TLC boosted driver wages by 5.3% in March, which according to NYTWA’s Desai doesn’t account for recent further spikes in fuel costs.
“Because of the ten years for waiting for so long and we are unable to survive,” said Richard Chow, 64, who has been driving for 17 years. Chow, who is testifying the TLC’s public hearings, is calling for the TLC to raise fares every five years and not wait another 10 years.
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