from The News Leader
July 16, 1970
by Milton J. Smith Sr.
August, with its hot, humid weather is noted as the ‘zany month’ which impels people to perform bizarre acts. This year that period of summer arrived July 12, at the Prince George’s County Commissioners hearing on proposed taxicab rate increases.
The hearing appeared to become a political testing ground for two members of the Commission who is not seeking re-election, but maybe searching for votes in the event they announce for higher office, and they denounced more moderate increases proposed by the present Taxicab Director, Henry P. Stawinski.
The hearing, which developed into a verbal free-for-all, was called to consider a rate increase to allow taxi drivers to charge time and mileage on all trips in Prince George’s County, and 10 cents for any brief stop requested by the passenger. It also requested a three minute waiting period, rather than the present five minutes, before charging overtime.
As the hearing progressed it became evident the commission was sympathetic to a certain segment of the assembled taxi owners and driven, whose proposal was a fifty cent charge to inform the customer of the cab driver’s arrival, and .an increase from the present charge of 10 cents each for handling grocery bags (over two) to 20 cents. The most heated arguments were heard when it was suggested that when a person hires a cab, there would be an extra charge of 50 cents each for additional passengers.
In Laurel, this would mean a woman accompanied by her three children, five bags of groceries, and traveling up to one mile from any shopping center would pay a cab me of $2.70.
Laurel cab drivers were quick to respond to the news with comments such as, “If we get it (the raise), I’ll charge it, but I won’t like it.” Another driver, who is well-known for his devotion to the dollar, stated, I’ d rather the rates remained the same than increase to the point of being ridiculous.”
When questioned, another driver said, “When people object to paying the present 20 cents extra for a child I tell them if they’ll sign an agreement not to sue should the kid be injured or killed in my cab I’ll haul him for free.” To date no one has taken him up on this proposal but he is thinking of getting forms made if the increase goes to the 50 cents rate.
Citing a different angle to the situation another driver retorted, “Why shouldn’t I charge 50 cents extra for a child who stands on my seats with muddy shoes, puts fingerprints on my windows, and leaves ice from soft drinks on the floor of my cab?”
The owners of Laurel’s two cab stands- were not available for comment as they are busy working on a merger of the two companies.
Those are some of the reactions of cab drivers in Laurel who will bear the force of customers who complain if the rates are greatly increased.
Director of Taxicabs Licenses and Inspections Henry P. Stawinski had this to say, “I’m in favor of an increase but not to the point of being unrealistic. I’m definitely for the original proposal because the demands of some of the owners and drivers is highly inflationary.” He further stated, “Remember, we have virtually no mass transit system.” Thus, the taxi riding public is a captive audience. If the Commission approves too large an increase we will over-price ourselves right out of business.”
The records show that five years ago 1,250,000 persons rode in Prince George’s County cabs. This years projection is over 5,000,000. Even the heavy population increase will not decry the fact taxis are more a necessity than a luxury. In areas, like Laurel, where no truly local bus system is available the above statement is absolute.
Persons who desire to make their views known to the County Commissioners may call 627 -3000. Ask for the Clerk of the County Commissioners, or write to Frank Aluisi, Chairman of the County Commissioners at Upper Marlboro, Maryland.