Rochester taxi drivers ask for rate increase

Taxi driver Shannon Reed favors raising the minimum cab fare in Rochester.

Rochester taxicab drivers and two of Rochester's three cab companies are asking the city to increase its regulated taxi fare rates, which haven't been changed since 2005.

In a petition submitted to the Rochester City Council in January, Michael Kleiber of Rochester Taxi Inc. and about 60 other drivers state that Rochester's minimum rates are lower than all other Minnesota cities and have not kept up with the rising costs of living since 2005.

Although the petition was submitted in January, the council discussed the issue on Monday during a committee of the whole meeting. The council put the issue off in January, asking the city's Senior Administrative Analyst Terry Spaeth to talk to Rochester's cab companies and gather information about taxi fares in other cities.

Kleiber told the council that Rochester's cab drivers provide high-quality service, working long hours to try to make enough money to pay their living expenses. Drivers start at minimum wage, and the best ones who are willing to work 12-hour shifts make $15 or $16 per hour, he said.

Jesse Logan, a cab driver for Med City Taxi, told the council she is a single mother trying to scrape out a living driving night shifts. She said taxi drivers do much more for people than just drive the cabs.


"We carry in people's groceries for them. We have a lot of elderly people, who we help get to the door and make sure they don't slip on the ice ... we help take motorized scooters apart so we can get them into the cab," Logan said.

At the end of Monday's discussion, the council asked for the creation of a task force to study not only taxi fares but best practices in taxi cab operation and standards. Council members, taxi drivers and others at Monday's meeting said, given Rochester's anticipated growth and the Destination Medical Center initiative, a wider scope of study is needed to make sure the city's cab companies and drivers deliver high-quality service.

Brad Jones, executive director of the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Rochester International Airport Director Marty Lenss told the council they will work together to develop a plan for creating the task force. They said they will bring it to the council in two weeks.

In Rochester, taxi customers pay $2.25 for the first one-eighth mile and then a prorated charge based on $2.25 per mile. There is a minimum fare of $3.75. In Minneapolis, customers pay a base rate of $2.50 plus $2.75 per mile and the minimum fare of $5, according to information gathered by Spaeth. St. Paul is the same, except the per-mile rate is $2.20. St. Cloud has a base rate of $3.50 plus $1.60 per mile and no minimum fare.

In Duluth, cab companies set their own rates. Most have a base rate of $2.50 plus varying per-mile rates and just a few have a minimum fare, which is $5.

While representatives of Rochester Taxi and Med City Taxi said they were in favor of raising Rochester fares, Yellow Cab General Manager Terry Brady said his company is against it.

"When Yellow Cab is ready to ask you to increase the rates, we'll come and ask you," he said.

Brady was expressing a position Yellow Cab made in January that cab company employees should only make requests for wage increases from their employers and "not through their employers' customers, in this case the citizens of Rochester," according to a letter sent to Spaeth from Doug Ruth of Best Ride Inc., which owns Yellow Cab.


Ruth wrote that Yellow Cab's owners pay the company's drivers the highest possible rates to attract the best employees and that "if we believe at some point it is necessary to establish higher fares in Rochester, then we will deal with the city directly as owners."

The letter also claimed Kleiber does not represent Yellow Cab drivers and the petition would only make sense if "Rochester taxi cab drivers were independent owner operators trying to increase the fares."

The petition includes the signatures of some Yellow Cab drivers, Kleiber said after the meeting.

What happened : About 60 Rochester tax drivers submitted a petition to the city council saying Rochester's minimum taxi rates are too low and should be raised.

What you pay now:  In Rochester, taxi customers pay $2.25 for the first one-eighth mile and then a prorated charge based on $2.25 per mile. There is a minimum fare of $3.75.

What's next : A task force will be created to study taxi fares and best practices in taxi cab operation and standards.

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