Thursday, September 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

What goes up must come down

The plus side to our dismal economy is that gas prices are plunging as quickly as they once skyrocketed. So here's my question: When will the Philadelphia Parking Authority get rid of that 50-cent gas surcharge it placed on Philly taxi fares in early June?

What goes up must come down

PhillyGasPrices.com chart shows gas under $3.50 since the end of September.
PhillyGasPrices.com chart shows gas under $3.50 since the end of September.

The plus side to our dismal economy is that gas prices are plunging as quickly as they once skyrocketed.

So here's my question:  When will the Philadelphia Parking Authority get rid of that 50-cent gas surcharge it placed on Philly taxi fares in early June?

Cab riders hated the surcharge back then, obviously, but not many begrudged it. Hey, when gas prices soar to $4.14 per gallon, the way they did in July, everyone knows they have to share the pain.

But now that pump costs in Philly are averaging $2.14 per gallon, and predicted to head lower through the winter, isn't it time to drop that 50-cent surcharge already?

I put that question in a voicemail yesterday to Jim Ney,  head of the Philadelphia Parking Authority's Taxicab & Limousine Division, which regulates fares in the city's 1,800 cabs and 2,000 limos.

I'll post his answer here as soon as he returns my call.  Meantime, here's how I happened to ask him about it in the first place.

Last month, Daily News reader Kevin Towey read my column about how some Philly taxi drivers pretend that the credit-card system in their cabs is broken, thereby forcing riders to pay cash. They do this because they don't want to pay the vendor fees incurred by offering credit-card use to their customers. 

Towey, a frequent taxi rider, contacted me to say that he was equally peeved by the Philly-cab industry's use of a 50-cent gas surcharge, which he thought was no longer needed, given how dramatically gas prices have dropped.

Specifically, he noted that the PPA's initial order to institute the gas surcharge also directed the PPA's Board to stay abreast of daily price changes, ostensibly to make sure the surcharge was still warranted.  

As for criteria about ditching the surcharge, here's what the order says:

"The fuel surcharge may be lifted by this Board or upon recommendation of the TLD in the event the ten (10) day average cost of regular gasoline in the City of Philadelphia recedes to below $3.50 per gallon, or otherwise in the best interests of the public."

According to Jason Toews, co-founder of the website PhillyGasPrices.com, a comprehensive, pro-consumer guide to finding cheap fuel, prices have stayed below $3.50 per gallon since Sept. 30th.  

Better still, over the last ten days, gas in Philly has averaged a cheapo $2.14 per gallon.

"We predict they'll continue to fall until at least February, rebounding toward Memorial Day," Toews told me yesterday.

So what do you say, Mr. Ney? Riders shared cabbies' pain when there was pain to share. Now that relief has come, how about we share that, too?

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
About this blog

When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.


Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at polaner@phillynews.com.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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