Houston has almost 2,500 taxis plying the city streets.
The city regulates both the fares and operational requirements like how old the vehicles can be. It’s been seven years since the last fare increase.
Mayor Annise Parker says rising gas prices have been really squeezing the drivers.
“The cab industry asked if we would please pass it in time for the rodeo. This is one of the really significant events: a rodeo, you know, a Final Four, some kind of major sporting event, tends to be where the cabs make most of their money and we were trying to accommodate them.”
The new prices kick right away. The base rate for flagging a cab will go up by a quarter, to $2.75. The per-mile charge will also increase by 40¢ .
The mayor says Houston still has the lowest cab fares of all major U.S. cities.
“Cabs are often one of the first things that a visitor experiences about Houston, and we want that experience to be as positive as possible.”
As part of that, the city is asking cab companies to install back-seat terminals that would allow passengers to swipe their own credit cards to pay, without having to hand the cards to the driver. The terminal also has a GPS map that shows the cab’s route.
Chris Newport is with the city’s regulatory department.
“What the city would like to do is to see the market provide an option for passengers where they can see where they are, where they’re going, the shortest route, and just obtain comfort that they’re not being gamed.”
As an incentive, Newport said the city will allow cab companies that install the terminals to charge a convenience fee on the credit-card swipes.