WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Dimy Marcelin and other White Plains taxi drivers say C ity Hall's decision to curb inflated gas prices by extending a $1 surcharge through 2012 is not enough to counteract the damage done by an outdated fare index and an influx of illegally operating cabs.
"I spoke to the mayor asking if they can do something for us. You can't make any money. If you get one person for $5 every hour -- it takes a long time to get from the back of the line to the front at the train station -- it's not enough to cover gas," said Marcelin, who is a 40-year old Rockland County resident who has been driving in White Plains for about two years.
Drivers say the zone-based pricing system that nets them between $3.65 and $6.75 plus the extra dollar they can charge to offset gas prices is the least equitable pay scale in the county. Mount Vernon and Yonkers have a minimum of fare of approximately $7, according to Marcelin, who says it's time for the city to adjust fares that were last increased by $0.25 to $0.50 in 2002.
"The problem is the city doesn't care what happens with the drivers," said Juan Suarez, a White Plains resident who has been driving in the city for 17 years. "The gas prices have quadrupled. The drivers have a problem because of the economy. When the economy [is] good, people take a taxi from the train station to the Galleria. Now, they put on a hat and scarf and walk anyplace."
Suarez flipped through his copy of the 1997 fare rates and said he didn't notice the pay scale had grown from between $3.10 and $6.50 to between $3.65 and $6.75 in 2002. He and Arthur Adamas, a Mount Vernon resident who has been driving in White Plains for 10 years, described the $1 surcharge voted in by the Common Council last week as "a joke."
"Fifty dollars cannot even fill the tank. It's pretty expensive. And then when I finish work maybe I have $82," said Adamas.
Karen Pasquale, senior advisor to Mayor Thomas Roach, did not return calls for comment.
Drivers also complain that a number of livery cabs and taxis not registered in White Plains have elevated the competition. Livery or gypsy cabs are not legally allowed to pick up passengers from the street and taxis not registered in White Plains can drop off or pick up in the city, but not do a "local to local" transport that doesn't cross a city line.
"It's getting worse because of the gypsy cabs. It's not safe for the city because they aren't registered here. Some don't have licenses," said Mercelin, who echoed other drivers' complaints that public safety doesn't do enough to enforce taxi laws. "The police, they're supposed to work for the citizens. How can they be too busy to make sure it's safe?"
A freedom of information law request revealed that police arrested 12 out of town drivers in five stings during 2011.
Still, drivers say it's hard to miss the Metro Taxis and other Greenburgh-based companies lined up at taxi stands by WalMart and the Galleria waiting for customers.
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