Taxi passengers take note: The price of a New York minute doubled on Thursday.
Starting just after midnight Wednesday, the fare for an average cab ride climbed by about $1 as passengers faced higher charges for time spent sitting in traffic.
The base amount of a cab fare depends on how far the trip is, but drivers also charge for time idling at lights and crawling through congestion.
After hearing complaints about higher fuel costs, the city Taxi and Limousine Commission agreed last month to hike the charge for "wait time" from 20 cents per minute to 40 cents per minute, increasing the average fare from $8.65 to $9.65.
Passengers offered a range of opinions Thursday on the change, with some calling the increase "terrible" and others saying drivers have a right to make a living.
"It's not a budget buster. It's just an annoyance," said John Neiswanger, of Rahway, N.J., who frequently uses taxis while in the city on business. "I won't be walking."
Others were equally sanguine.
"This is New York — you get what you pay for," said rider Michael Naren. "People are going to complain about it, but, ultimately, it's fair."
Many city dwellers may not notice the change at all because they've already been priced off the streets.
Taxis have long been an extravagance in the city — the domain of wealthy businessmen, rich old ladies and tourists. For most residents, cabs are for special occasions, like a hot date, a trip to the airport or a quick ride home after a late night on the town.
"If I was in a cab 10 times a week, I might be upset. But who can afford that?" said Michael Rogalski, a maintenance worker from Queens. "Look, the drivers are entitled to it."
City taxi fares last rose in 2004, but the wait time cost has not changed in almost 17 years, Taxi & Limousine Commissioner Matthew W. Daus wrote in a column on the agency's Web site.
As a result, he said, drivers who had the bad luck of picking up a passenger who needed to go someplace with heavy traffic were getting shortchanged.
The new wait time fare is expected to add an average of $2.64 per hour to drivers' earnings, bringing their average hourly wage to $15.60, Daus wrote.
The new rate puts New York in the same range as other major U.S. cities for wait time fare, which includes time spent moving at 12 mph or less.
Another change in taxi fares also went into effect Thursday: a new flat fare of $45 on trips from Manhattan to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. The same price was already in place for trips from the airport into Manhattan.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Wednesday it would not raise city bus and subway fares in 2007. No increases are planned on the agency's Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road commuter lines, either.