Cab fee limits student access

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It is a Thursday night, a great night to go downtown with friends. You get dressed up, and you are ready to go. There is just one thing stopping you: a lack of transportation.

You and your friends wait for what feels like hours for the E-bus. One finally comes, but it is at full capacity. Somehow you eventually make it downtown, but you face the same predicament trying to get home. This time, however, it is 3 a.m.

Many UT students are drawn to Sixth Street for a good time. Unfortunately, too many students have trouble getting on the overcrowded E-bus or finding a cab to get to and from campus. It is clearly unsafe to have college students, many of whom are intoxicated, wandering around downtown Austin looking for a ride home. Action needs to be taken to provide students with safe, reliable and affordable rides, but solutions come at a price.

Beginning today, Austinites will have to pay an additional dollar to take a taxi between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. everyday. Austin City Council voted in favor of the fee Feb. 1, and the $1 per-person charge will be added to the already existing drop rate, the starting price on a cab meter. It is intended to motivate taxi drivers to work late night hours, thereby increasing the number of available cabs. But the efforts to encourage cab drivers to work during these hours paradoxically discourages students from taking cabs.

The fee increase mostly affects the student population, who often take cabs during these peak hours. Many students who can barely afford cabs are forced to take them when the E-buses are unavailable or overcrowded. Between tuition, textbooks, housing and food expenses, college students do not have a lot of discretionary income.

The price of a cab ride from the CVS on the Drag to Sixth Street is about $7, according to Yellow Cab Austin. With the new fee, a group of four students catching a cab ride back to campus will cost approximately $11, excluding tip, which substantially increases the original cost of the cab ride. If students go downtown a few times a week, the additional cost of the cabs over time will definitely add up.

Although the new city ordinance may increase the number of available cabs for students, raising the cab fees is not the solution, as the increase in price could potentially leave more students roaming around downtown in vulnerable states. The Austin Police Department, Capital Metro and Parking and Transportation Services, the cosponsors of the E-bus, need to determine a way to increase the number of E-buses and have them run more frequently to avoid overcrowding during these peak hours. Further, City Council should propose a solution to increase affordable, safe transportation without penalizing students.

Lapin is a journalism sophomore.