Be prepared to pay a little more for your taxi ride and remember to pack lightly because taxi tariffs across the territory will increase by 20 percent and luggage will carry a standardized charge starting October 1.
The taxi tariffs are being raised for the first time in more than five years, with the last increase occurring in 2000, according to Andrew Rutnik, Commissioner of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA).
We are in 2005/2006 now, and as every one knows the cost of operation of any business has gone up, driven mostly by increased oil and fuel costs, said Rutnik. And since the taxi business is purely fuel-driven, we feel the cost is justified.
Tariffs Replace Surcharge
Although the new taxi tariffs, which will be implemented throughout the territory, will raise the current rates approximately 20 percent, the new tariffs will replace the $1 surcharge which went into effect June 1 of this year due to the high costs of fuel, offsetting the increased rates for customers.
The $1 surcharge will cease to exist October 1, and in a way, that $1 surcharge almost amounted to the 20 percent increase, said Rutnik. Customers will not have to pay the $1 surcharge because we are rolling a fuel surcharge into the new tariff. If a taxi tariff from Cruz Bay to Trunk Bay was previously $5, it would have been $6 with the $1 fuel surcharge, explained Rutnik. So the 20 percent increase will not really effect the customers because it will be offset by the removal of the $1 surcharge, said the DLCA commissioner.
Standardized Luggage Charge
DLCA is also implementing a consistent price tag on luggage throughout the territory in order to standardize costs and eliminate confusion, according to Rutnik. There was a lot of confusion in the prior tariffs for oversize luggage and we have now standardized that, said Commissioner Rutnik.
Effective October 1, the standard charge for bags measuring 30-inches by 20-inches is $2, and any bags larger than that will be $4, with passengers being allowed one carry-on bag for free. The prior baggage fee was $1 per bag, and if it was oversized you had to negotiate a price with the taxi driver, which led to a lot of confusion because it was arbitrary, said Rutnik. For example, without standardized prices for bags, a passenger travelling to the airport with an oversized bag could be charged $8 by one taxi driver for the bag and then $4 by the next taxi driver from Red Hook back to the airport, explained Rutnik. This new fee sets the rate and the size so there is no negotiation or confusion; it will be standard, said the DLCA commissioner.
No New Fees for Dollar Taxis
However, the new fees do not apply to public transportation taxis like the $1 and $2 safari buses that make runs on St. Thomas and St. Croix, according to Commissioner Rutnik. The fees only apply to point to point taxi service, not public transportation, he said. The DLCA commissioner met with the V.I. Taxi Association officers to discuss the new tariffs on Tuesday evening, September 6, at the St. John Legislature Building in Cruz Bay.
The taxi drivers seem to be happy about the new tariffs, according to the DLCA Commissioner. They realize that there hasnt been an increase for five-plus years, said Rutnik. They compromised on the luggage issue, but I impressed upon them that the simpler and the more standardized the tariff for them to understand and the customer to understand, the easier it will be to implement.