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Development & Transportation
Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

PUC Tentatively OKs Modified Fare Hikes For Yellow Cab

Three weeks after rejecting Yellow Cab’s request to impose a surcharge of up to $8 per trip on weekends and holidays, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has tentatively approved two other fare increases for the taxi service.

The PUC rejected one provision of the request but agreed to a jump in the flag drop rate — the starting amount on the meter — from the current $2.25 up to $4 and a 30-cent-per-minute increase in the wait time rate. The charge to customers to have drivers wait will cap at be 55 cents per minute.

The commission did not give final approval Thursday to the two increases because the original request failed to include the removal of a $1 temporary surcharge that began in 2008. PUC officials set a Sept. 21  to submit a request for just those two increases, both of which would become effective at the time of filing.

Jamie Campolongo, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Transportation Group, who facilitates local Yellow Cab drivers, said these increases are “long overdue.”

“While not meeting our fully justified fare adjustments, we are pleased that the PUC has approved some limited, necessary changes to benefit our 475 independent contractors,” Campolongo said.

Boosting the waiting minute rate will increase drivers’ willingness to sit, he said, because as it is, if they’re waiting, “they can’t make any money.”

“These modest fare adjustments should encourage our drivers to handle more short-term trips in the city’s central business district,” Campolongo said.

He said raises in the flag drop and waiting rates should result in “a very minor increase in revenue for the company.

The PUC on July 30 rejected the Pittsburgh Transportation Group’s request for the surcharge on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday saying the variable fee wouldn’t allow a passenger “to determine if it’s the proper amount.”

Campolongo argued at that time that ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft are permitted to use surge pricing, so Yellow Cab should be allowed to do so as well.

Campolongo said the company will consider seeking future increases from the PUC and take further actions “to create a level playing field with our competition.”