Cabs to cut fuel surcharge in half

CHICAGO Gas prices have dropped enough to lower the $1 fuel surcharge for Chicago taxis. On Friday, the fare drops to 50-cents.

The surcharge went into effect in the spring after being approved by the Chicago City Council. It kicks in when gasoline averages $3.20 a gallon for more than a week. On Friday, the average price at the pump will have been below that for 7 business days.

Some cab drivers said the surcharge didn't help much because passengers took the surcharge out of the tip, but other said they will lose out.

"For you to make money is hard," said Babatunde Yousuf. Yousuf said the dollar surcharge amounted to an extra $15 or $20 a day for him. Despite that, Yousuf said the profits are drying up. "We don't get tips like we used to have tips before the surcharge. Now we don't really have too much."

"Hard-working folks like that, help offset the cost of them managing their business. Because they are self-employed businessmen. So I didn't mind paying," said John Davidson, cab passenger.

"It doesn't make any difference. If they take it off or keep it. It doesn't make any difference," said Zahran Manasra, cab driver. "It doesn't make any difference for the cab driver because people take it from their tip."

"Actually it doesn't help too much because if you pump the gas in Chicago, it's like $3.33. If you're going to the suburb, it's like $2.90. The only problem, you can do nothing in suburbs," said Zeid Hascovic, cab driver.

"It was an extra dollar. For some people they not only got the extra dollar, but they also got additional tips," said Norma Reyes, Chicago Consumer Services Commissioner.

By Friday all cabs should have new placards advising passengers that the fuel surcharge has been cut in half.

"Only pay 50 cents because 50 cents as of Friday will be the surcharge. Maybe you will run across a cab driver that hasn't heard, and I hope that's not the case, but maybe that's possible, but report it and we will follow through," said Reyes.

If gas drops below $2.70 a gallon, the surcharge would be lifted altogether. But, if the price goes back up to $3.20, the surcharge would, too.

Steve Wiedersberg leads an association of cabbies. He said they're mad about losing part of the surcharge. Now, he said, a fare increase this spring is inevitable.

"What they're talking about is 11 percent every four years, so drivers get 11 percent but it's still the lowest cab fares in the nation for any major city," said Widersberg.

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