Charleston airport board OKs higher taxi rates; discusses TSA exit lanes

The price passengers pay for taxis at Charleston International Airport will go up 17 percent Nov. 1.

Poll results

On postandcourier.com, we asked: Do you think $2.52 per mile for two passengers is a fair rate for taxi service from the airport?

Here’s what you said:

19% Yes, that sounds reasonable

35% No, it should be a flat rate

21% No, it should remain $2.15 per mile for two passengers

25% I have no strong opinion

(264 responses from Oct. 10-17, margin of error +/- 6%)

Charleston County Aviation Authority voted unanimously Thurday to raise the amount cabs charge but agreed to revisit the rate structure after more review, so rates could be tweaked again over the next few months.

The Charleston Airport Association of Limo and Taxi Drivers wanted the higher rates to match the cost-of-living increase since rates were last set in 2005.

Under the approved plan, the current taxi rate of $2.15 per mile for the first two passengers will rise by 37 cents while the cost for additional passengers will rise $2 to $14.

Also, the shuttle rate to downtown Charleston will got up $2 to $14, and taxi runs in the vicinity of the airport will rise $1.50 to $10.50 per passenger.

“I think it’s appropriate,” airports director Paul Campbell said of the proposed rate hike.

Rubin Nelson, head of the taxi group, said the fare hike is needed because rates haven’t gone up in eight years, though he said the price of doing business has.

“I am pleased with the rate increase, and we will look at the rate structure to make sure we have some input,” Nelson said after the meeting.

The airport board directed staff members to review the rate structure after board member Mallory Factor questioned the cost of transporting his family from the airport to downtown Charleston under the current rates.

“I’ve taken taxis here several times,” he said. “At times, it comes out cheaper to take multiple taxis than just one.”

After the meeting, Nelson said he planned to meet with his 35-member taxi association Friday and look at the rate structure to see if it needed to be altered.

“It’s important that rates not get excessive,” Nelson said.

There also aren’t that many trips from the airport where more than two people take a taxi, said Mike Heider, Aviation Authority manager of ground transportation.

“The average is 1.7 passengers per trip,” he said. He also said a child sitting in a parent’s lap is not charged under current regulations.

“It’s not often we see multiple passengers and families,” Nelson said. “Often, they rent cars.”

The Aviation Authority also voted to raise the number of taxis permitted at the airport to 55 from 50 because of a sharp rise in ridership since the cap was put in place in 2001.

During the past 12 years, the number of passenger trips and passengers has grown more than 50 percent each.

In addition, the number of boarding passengers at Charleston International, the state’s busiest airport, has soared since 2001, climbing from 800,000 to nearly 1.3 million in 2012. An equal number arrived at the airport.

The airport board also considered how to handle an unfunded mandate from the federal Transportation Security Administration.

As of Jan. 1, the agency will no longer staff the exit lanes near security checkpoints at Charleston International and other airports but it will continue to require that personnel or electronic equipment be in place.

The cost of either option hasn’t been determined, but the money is not in the Aviation Authority’s current budget.

The agency must come up with a plan to take over the responsibility and present it to TSA officials by Nov. 1.

Campbell, the airports director, said the task will require about seven people to fill the gap left by TSA, and they could come from existing part-time security personnel at the airport.

“It’s really TSA’s responsibility,” he said. “They have all the training. Airports pay them a fee to take care of security.”

The agency is considering joining other airports through Airports Council International to challenge the mandate in court, Campbell said.

“We haven’t made a decision, but I expect us to join,” he said Thursday.



Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.

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