taxi

A taxi driver enters his vehicle with new customers at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank on Friday, September 16, 2011. The Burbank Traffic Commission recently approved a $15.50 minimum fare for taxi rides from the airport, no matter how short they are. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

Passengers leaving Bob Hope Airport in a taxi soon will have to pay a $15.50 minimum fare, even if they’re going just a few blocks.

Under a plan approved by city traffic commissioners, the minimum fare takes effect Sept. 23 and impacts only those riders who catch a taxi at the airport.

The Burbank Transportation Commission approved the fare in response to taxi drivers who said they were fed up with losing money on short hops to and from the airfield. Many passengers, they say, park in nearby retail parking lots or on city streets and then take a short taxi trip to the airport.

The short trips become a financial burden for taxi drivers, who say they often wait for hours in a queue, only to get a small fare.

‘This is not good for the taxi driver to just collect $10,” said Albert Shamirian, taxi coordinator at the airport.

Taxis originating from the Los Angeles International Airport currently charge $15 minimum fee, plus a $4 surcharge that funds improvements to taxi facilities and dispatch systems at LAX.

The new minimum fare at Bob Hope Airport replaces a rate structure made up of an initial $2.50 charge for the first 1/9 mile or 37 seconds, and 30 cents for each additional 1/9 mile or 37 seconds of wait time or traffic delay. Each ride carries a flat $2.50 gasoline surcharge.

Even frequent destinations can undercut a driver’s bottom-line. A trip to the Courtyard Marriott is about $8, said Rubik Kazarian, a driver for Tri City, one of three taxi companies that service Burbank.

On Thursday, he said he had only five trips from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., with fares ranging from $9.65 to $65.

The minimum fare equals a 4.75-mile trip under the old structure, according to a city report. A 4.75-mile perimeter from Bob Hope Airport covers almost all of Burbank to the east and North Hollywood and Sun Valley to the west.

For longer trips, fares will accumulate from the minimum at the regular rate.

G&S Transit Management Inc., one of the three city-authorized taxi operators, requested the minimum fare, which appeared to catch at least one member of City Council, which can overturn the commission-level decision, by surprise.

Reached on Friday, Councilman Gary Bric declined to comment on the minimum fare, saying he was unaware of the commission’s action. He said he would look into the matter.

According to statistics provided by G&S, the three companies, including United Taxi of the Southwest, have 130 taxis — 76 of which are dedicated to the airport. United doesn’t have any taxis exclusively assigned to the airport, according to the city report.

G&S and Tri City service about 114,000 taxi trips that originate from the airport annually, according to the stats, compared with 109,000 annual trips generated in Burbank from outside the airport.

G&S had no details on how many short trips drivers make every day, but Shamirian, the airport’s taxi coordinator, said it can be as many as four per driver.

As for the public reaction, Debbie Morales, who was picking up someone at the airport on Thursday, said she wouldn’t like it if she had to pay $15.50 for a short trip.

“I would definitely be disappointed,” she said. “I can see that they need to make a living, but I think $15.50 is a bit steep if you’re only going a few blocks.”