Council favors plan to boost taxi fares

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AUBURN – A plan to make taxicab rates in the Twin Cities match should get a City Council vote next week.

The rates for Twin Cities taxicab rides have been out of whack since March, when Lewiston approved a rate hike across its five taxicab zones. Auburn increased rates for its seven zones in 2004 and 2005, but didn’t change them last year.

“There has been some confusion, especially among riders, about why the rates change when they cross the river and why,” said Assistant City Manager Laurie Smith.

Councilors should get a plan to make their zones match Lewiston’s next week. They discussed it Monday night during their evening workshop and said it was worth voting on.

Taxi rides within Auburn’s first five zones would match Lewiston. Since Auburn is bigger, it has two more zones and rates would increase in the remaining zones as well.

Councilors will also consider adopting a fuel fee identical to Lewiston’s. Under Lewiston’s fuel fee, if gas prices go above $2.20 for more than two weeks, taxi companies can add an additional fee per call. The extra fee can be 10 cents for every 20 cents gas prices are above $2.20.

“That’s peanuts,” City Councilor Ray Berube said.

But Dan Leonas, owner of City Cab, said it helps when gas prices rise quickly.

“You can lose $5,000, $6,000 a month real easily,” he said. “I was close to locking the doors, and the Lewiston fuel fee was the only thing that kept me going. I was even considering not taking the calls from Auburn because we couldn’t afford it.”

Leonas said the official gas price, according to the city of Lewiston, is less than $2.20. That means the fuel fee is not in effect now.

“That shows that it works,” Leonas said. “It goes up when the prices go up and goes away when they go down.”

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