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TODAY

Thursday, July 27

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Get ready to pay extra to cab it in 2011. If the price of gas prices average $3.20 or more for seven consecutive days, Chicago cabs can add a $1 fuel surcharge onto fares. Gas went above $3.20 on Dec. 22 and has stayed above that mark ever since, so that surcharge could kick in on Monday at midnight.

Why Monday? Well, the 24th and 31st are considered holidays, so they don't count for the seven business days. Which means that, assuming gas prices don't drop below $3.20 before Monday, the surcharge will trigger at 12:01am Tuesday, Jan. 4. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, which the City uses as the official record for the surcharge, the average as of today is $3.304; ChicagoGasPrices.com puts it at $3.324 and stable.

A spokeperson said the City was "98 percent sure" the surcharge would go into effect, and was preparing for it. Cabs are already tacking on a 50-cent surcharge because the price of gas is above $2.70; this lower-tier surcharge has been in effect since Oct. 29, 2009. The new surcharge adds an additional 50 cents, and will remain until gas prices dip under $3.20 again for seven consecutive business days.

Dmitry Samarov, an artist and writer who documents his experiences driving a cab, doesn't like the surcharge. "There are several problems here: when drivers add extras to the meter, many riders get suspicious and our tips suffer, [and] the surcharge is unfair to riders going short distances, as they're charged the same as longer fares." He said most drivers would like to see a fare increase enacted, "but the recession gave the city cover to kill that." In November aldermen Ed Burke and Carrie Austin proposed a $1 surcharge to help correct city budget shortfall. But none of that fee would go to taxi drivers, ignoring months of lobbying by drivers for a 22 percent fare increase.

 
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