Fair Ride: Un-'fare' service

By Matt Porter

February 26, 2014 Updated Feb 28, 2014 at 6:11 AM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) As a Medicaid patient in Whitney Point, Michelle Yannetti relies on cab service to get to her to appointments in Binghamton.

"They make you wait sometimes three, four hours for a taxi to pick you up," Yannetti said.

She suffers from aneurysms, and delays sometimes force her to cancel potentially life-saving appointments.

And when she pays cash for a cab, she said the fare is never the same.

"They change their rates," Yannetti said. "They just decide what it is what you pay."

When Broome County's Security Division took over regulation of taxi companies after the county enacted a law in 2010, they promised a new era of better service and fair prices.

The new rules included mandating here from every cab company applying for a license. The fare sheets should provide a detailed account of a taxi's going rate.

An Action News investigation uncovered cab drivers from the same company, A-1 Courtesy Cab, charging different rates than their fare sheets.

The first charged a fare $2 more than the $14 rate registered with Broome County.

Later, a second cab charged $20 for the same fare.

Owner of A-1 Courtesy Bob Pornbeck said he can't control what his drivers decide to charge.

"That's just the way it is," Pornbeck said. "They're negotiating with the driver, not the office."

Director of Broome Security Jim Dadamio overseas regulation and enforcement.

He said the county will regulate the fare sheets, but it's up to taxi companies to decide what rates to list.

"Like any good consumer would when you're out buying anything," Dadamio said, "Are you going to go to one store and pay more for a gallon of milk versus another store?"

But, there's no standard requirements for what's reported on fare sheets making it impossible to compare.

For example, Courtesy Cab only provides fare rates for only 11 locations, all originating in downtown Binghamton, despite more than 50 possible zones to list.

Pornbeck said it would be too complicated to create a more detailed fare sheet.

"You can't do it," Pornbeck said. "They [fare sheets] are a general guide and not to be taken as gospel."

Although customers can request a fare sheet from the driver, Broome County doesn't post the sheets online.

(Action News has posted the fare sheets we acquired here.)

Dadamio said he didn't know if he had legal authority or the capability to post the fare sheets online.

When asked what would legally stop him, Dadamio replied, "I don't have that answer."

Even if a customer can compare fare sheets, if the fare sheet doesn't include the desired destination, Dadamio agrees customers won't know if they're getting a fair ride.

"Unless the company was required to submit fare schedules in a unified format," he said. "I don't think we'd be able to see from company to company those differences."

Broome County does not require cab companies to submit fare sheets in a unified format, including listing a 'per mile' or 'per zone' rate which could provide easier comparisons between company fare sheets.

Taxi vehicle licenses cost $100 or $300 annually depending on if the driver or business uses a hybrid or non-hybrid vehicle, according to the county.

Taxi business licenses cost $250 annually.

Taxi drivers working for companies also have to pay lease fees and gas for their cabs each night according to drivers.

(This is part one of a two-part series)