Airport taxi rates may rise

The cost of hailing a shuttle van or taxi at Charleston International Airport could soon go up.

Taxi riders at Charleston International Airport may soon have to crack open their wallets a little wider.

The Charleston Airport Association of Limo and Taxi Drivers wants the airport’s oversight agency to approve a rate hike of 17 percent to match the increase in the cost-of-living since rates were last set in 2005.

If approved by Charleston County Aviation Authority, the current taxi rate of $2.15 per mile for the first two passengers would rise by 37 cents while the cost for additional passengers would rise $2.

Also, the shuttle rate to downtown Charleston would cost $2 more, and taxi runs in the vicinity of the airport would rise $1.50.

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

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

For instance, Nelson said insurance rates for his taxi business, R&N Transportation LLC, jumped up 129 percent during the past 12 months, mainly because of three accidents his taxis were involved in, even though all of them were not his drivers’ fault.

Nelson is pleased an Aviation Authority committee recommended Wednesday the new rates go to the full airport board for approval, but he also hopes the rates can be reviewed at least every three years to keep up with the cost of living.

An official with the region’s primary tourism agency said the proposed rate hike may be justifiable.

“I don’t think it will detract from anyone coming to Charleston based on the rates,” said Dan Blumenstock, past president of the Charleston Area Hospitality Association and vice chairman of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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Blumenstock added the price of operating shuttles from hotels near the airports has risen over the past eight years, so the proposed increase for taxis may be in line.

Blumenstock serves as director of hotel operations for Fennell Holdings, which includes the Ansonborough Inn in downtown Charleston and three hotels in North Charleston near the airport.

If approved, the higher rates would take effect Nov. 1, said Bill New, deputy airports director.

Also, the Aviation Authority is considering raising 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 in 2001 was nearly 800,000. That number was eclipsed during the first seven months of 2013 with more than 830,000 passengers flying out of the airport. In 2012, nearly 1.3 million passengers boarded planes out of Charleston. An equal number arrived.