NORTH ADAMS -- For the first time since 2007, taxi rates will increase across the city.
The City Council, which controls all cab rates within the city, on Tuesday approved a $2 increase, from $4 to $6, in the flat cab rate for any ride within a mile of the city's center. Trips to the outer regions of North Adams will bump from $5 to $7 under the revised regulations.
Additional charges in both zones, such as a $1 luggage charge and charges for waiting, will not be affected by the rate increase.
The city's only taxi cab company, Tunnel City Taxi, requested an increase in the rates from the council earlier this year.
Guy Cariddi, owner of Tunnel City Taxi, told the Public Safety Committee earlier this month that he loses $200 to $250 every day on his cab business, and that comparable services in Pittsfield cost more than twice as much as a ride in North Adams.
The Public Safety Committee, which brought the recommendation to increase rates to the City Council, discussed the possibility of doing away with the city's two-zone, flat-rate system. Cariddi suggested a base rate of $2.50, plus $0.25 per every 1/10th mile traveled. But when the Tunnel City Taxi owner suggested this would be measured by the car's odometer, Councilor Keith Bona balked, worrying that the odometer would not be visible to customers in the back seat.
"If they were to go to a measured system, I would prefer the standard taxi meters," Bona said on Tuesday.
But the standard meters could cost Tunnel City Taxi as much as $1,500, according to Cariddi. Councilor Eric Buddington expressed concern that the cost of the meters would potentially be a barrier to new taxi companies coming to North Adams.
After speaking with several taxi riders in the city, Councilor Kate Merrigan said they prefer the city's zone system over a metered approach.
"They really like the zone system, they find it predictable and easy to use," Merrigan said.
Users also were more receptive to the rate increase than Merrigan expected, she said.
"No one ever likes to raise rates," she said. "While it's not necessarily the place of the city to make sure businesses are profitable, we do set the rates, and we haven't adjusted them in seven years."
Merrigan noted that the rates should be revisited more frequently, such as during a large increase in fuel prices.
According to Cariddi, Tunnel City Taxi receives between 140 to 150 calls a day, shared between its four taxis during its operating hours of 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.
The company has received more calls for rides to Berkshire Medical Center in the wake of North Adams Regional Hospital's closure last month. It charges $40 for a ride, but the trip takes a cab out of the city for more than an hour, according to Cariddi, at times straining the company's ability to handle calls within the city limits.
"He's barely making a living," Councilor Wayne Wilkinson said, adding "I think it's really important to give him a modest increase so that we make sure we do have a taxi service in town."
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