Taxi drivers oppose flat fee proposal

Taxi drivers oppose flat fee proposal

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There is a battle brewing between cab drivers and hotels as the Honolulu City Council wants to mandate a flat fee for trips from the airport to Waikiki.

Cabbies say the proposal is unfair because they already have a $5 airport fee they can't pass on to the customer and because there are factors like traffic, congestion, or accidents that can make a trip take longer.

Cab drivers often get a bad rap and can leave customers feeling ripped off.

"You hear stories from time to time about a driver taking a circuitous route instead of a direct route and one time it costs $40 and the next time it costs $15," said David Carey, Outrigger Enterprises Group President and CEO.

Outrigger Enterprises is driving the effort to protect guests and is urging the City Council to make a set fee from the airport to Waikiki in hopes of adding more predictability and consistency.

"I think any measure we can take to make it a more pleasurable experience for our tourists should be considered," said Ernie Martin, Honolulu City Council Chair, who introduced the Bill 54.

Taxi drivers aren't happy about the idea saying their business is already regulated with set metered pricing.

"We're definitely not living here and making a ton of money," said Larry Vincent Ikei, taxi driver. "During the traffic hour from the airport to Waikiki which is roughly 9 to 10 miles it will take us well over an hour and if you don't believe us you can drive it yourself and see how it is from between 4 to 6 pm."

The state agrees previously testifying a flat rate can be economically harmful to the 400 cab drivers who work at the airport and can wait three hours for a customer.

"We are excessively regulated. There could be more innovation, more services to the public if they would relax the regulation not impose these silly ideas to regulate our flat rate," said Dale Evans, Charley's Taxi President. "The taxi driver cannot pass on the airport fee, the Diamondhead fee, the Hanauma Bay fee."

Cab drivers also say it's unfair that hotels can charge whatever they want and also pass on a variety of taxes and fees to the customer when the cabbies cannot.

"The hotels can charge any rate they want to one night they can charge $175 another night they might charge $375. They have the free market but they are telling the taxi driver you have to charge a flat rate no matter if there is traffic congestion and our traffic is second worst in the country," said Evans.

"Before you get on an airplane, before you fly over here you know what your room is going to cost. Imagine taking an airplane ride and getting off at the end and they hand you a bill for how much the flight is going to be. You probably wouldn't do that," said Carey.

"With regard to taxi fares you really don't know what you're going to pay until you complete your ride so there is some differences between the two," said Martin.

The flat fee idea has stalled before but this could be the year council gives it the green light. Public testimony will be heard next Wednesday at the full council meeting at Honolulu Hale. The meeting starts at 10:00 am.

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