Hawaii News Waikiki hotels want flat cab rate By Gordon Y.K. Pang Sept. 30, 2013 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! star-advertiser / 2010 Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. The City Council is looking into the possibility of establishing a flat rate taxicab drivers would charge passengers traveling from the Honolulu Airport to Waikiki. The owner of one major taxi dispatch company said she opposes the plan, while another said he wouldn’t object if it can be applied equitably. The longtime administrator of the city Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division said he is not even sure the city has the authority to set a flat rate. Bill 54 was introduced on behalf of Waikiki hoteliers who say they receive complaints from tourists who want to know what they will have to pay for their trip from airport to hotel. The bill was given a preliminary approval by the Council Budget Committee on Wednesday and now will go the full Council for the second of three required votes. At the committee meeting, Outrigger Enterprises executive Max Sword said he and other hotel operators want visitors to know how much they will pay to get to their hotel. "The point is, when the tourists get off a plane, they (will) know how much it costs to go to Waikiki," he said. "All we’re saying is that we would like to see a cap so that when the tourists get off (the airplane), they know exactly how much they’re going to be paying." Sword said visitors have complained "frequently" about being overcharged for the ride from the airport to Oahu’s main tourism hub. He said he does not want taxi drivers to lose money and is not overly concerned about what the flat rate would be. "We’ll set a level that is comfortable with everybody," he said. No one from the taxi industry testified at Wednesday’s meeting, but Charley’s Taxi President Dale Evans submitted testimony opposing the bill and warned that cabdrivers will be discouraged from picking up passengers from the airport. This would exacerbate an existing shortage of drivers who take travelers from the airport. In the mid-1990s there were about 1,200 taxis servicing the airport, Evans said. Today that number has fallen to fewer than 400, she said. Part of the reason is that under today’s airport rules, taxi drivers must pay a $5-per-ride pickup fee assessed by the state Department of Transportation that the city does not allow drivers to pass on to their customers, she said. The small number of available taxis at the airport creates severe shortages whenever several large planes arrive at once, leading to waits of up to 45 minutes for a taxi, Evans said. Howard Higa, president of The Cab, told the Star-Advertiser that he would not object to a flat rate if it could be applied equitably. He said the metered fare from the airport to Waikiki can range from $30 to $50, depending largely on traffic. Taxi dispatchers should have a say about what the rate should be, he said. Higa also said the bill should also be amended to allow the same flat rate to apply going from Waikiki to the airport. The existing bill calls for a flat rate from the airport to Waikiki only. Higa said he questions how hotel officials can argue there should be consistency in taxi rates when they freely and frequently adjust their room rates by as much as several hundred dollars based on demand. Dennis Kamimura, licensing administration for the city Department of Customer Services, said he is not sure the city can establish a flat rate. In Hawaii the state Public Utilities Commission regulates passenger common carrier vehicles, such as tour buses and shuttles, while counties oversee taxis, Kamimura said. Taxis, by definition, are vehicles that have a running meter, he said. Additionally, language in the bill says a taxi driver has the option of charging either the flat rate or metered amount, Kamimura said. Leaving that option open could result in visitors complaining that the flat rate they were charged was more than what another passenger paid with a metered rate, he said. Kamimura said one option would be to require that the driver leave the meter running and charge the passenger whichever is cheaper, whether it’s the metered amount or the flat rate. Ultimately, he said, he views the bill as unnecessary because taxi drivers are not barred from charging a flat rate now if they choose. In fact, Charley’s lists a $29 airport-Waikiki flat rate. The Cab has an arrangement for a flat rate with one Waikiki hotel. Several common carriers offer flat-rate shuttle rides to and from the airport and Waikiki for as low as $12.95 a person, based on a minimum of two riders. Councilman Stanley Chang, who represents Waikiki, said he supports the bill, adding that other major cities require flat rates. "I think we can all relate to the convenience and certainty of having a flat rate when we travel around the world and … not being concerned about getting ripped off or taken for a ride." The city in June raised the maximum allowable metered rates to $3.50 for the first one-eighth of a mile and 45 cents for each additional one-eighth mile or 45 seconds of waiting, from $3.10 for the first one-eighth mile and 40 cents for each additional one-eighth mile or 45 seconds of waiting. Previous Story 911 Report Next Story Heroes reuniting in 'triumph'