CITY HALL — Alert: Beginning Friday, if you pay more than $35 for a taxi ride from anywhere in Santa Monica to LAX, you’ve paid too much.
The City Council voted Tuesday to drop the rates from locations south and north of Interstate 10 respectively as part of a package of motions revisiting different aspects of the citywide taxi franchise system.
Rates will now be a maximum of $35 if you’re hopping in north of the 10 Freeway, and $30 if you get in on the southern side.
The drop in price from what was recommended by a study commissioned in 2008 from the Nelson/Nygaard firm is just simple math.
“It’s really just an average rate of a bill,” said Don Patterson, business and revenue operations manager for City Hall.
The new charges help City Hall’s goal of creating a fair, equitable taxi service while still giving the driver’s a chance to make a reasonable living, Patterson said.
City Hall has control over cabbies because of a franchise system instituted in 2010, which put strong restrictions on which cab companies could operate in city limits (five total), and capped the maximum number of cabs at 300.
Representatives of several of those taxi services stayed past midnight to comment on the matter, which was one of the last items on the packed agenda.
They seemed supportive of the two-rate system, which they hoped would bring in additional customers.
They also spoke out strongly in support of very particular language in the resolution, which would allow cab companies to offer coupons and discounted rates to passengers, and for the elimination of running the meter as an option.
“Do not open the door to a driver being able to run the meter,” said Michael Calin of Bell Cab. “What a dishonest driver will do is ask an innocent passenger who has no idea what’s what if you want a flat rate or the meter.”
Oftentimes, he continued, the passenger will get overcharged, Calin said.
Councilmembers deviated from the staff recommendation of a single, maximum rate of $35, which would cut down on confusion and complaints from hotels and the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, which declared the dual-rate system too confusing.
It wasn’t without some discussion, however.
“It’s not as if we didn’t try the two different rates, we tried them and it wasn’t working,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Gleam Davis, regarding the staff report.
The bureau and hotels received complaints about the different rates, according to the staff report.
Council member Bob Holbrook didn’t see a problem with letting people figure out the intricacies of I-10 geography.
“I think that word of mouth and people reading the Daily Press … will soon learn what the flat rate is,” he said. “It’ll be just fine that way.”
Charging the southerly customers more for a shorter ride would be a difficult sell, said Mayor Richard Bloom.
“Frankly, I don’t know how I would respond to our constituents,” Bloom said.