PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION
Opinion and Order
[34 Pa.B. 6620]
Public Meeting held
November 18, 2004
Commissioners Present: Wendell F. Holland, Chairperson; Robert K. Bloom, Vice Chairperson; Glen R. Thomas; Kim Pizzingrilli
Petition of the Brotherhood of Unified Taxi Drivers/Owners; S.P. 28208
Opinion and Order
By the Commission:
Before us for consideration is the Letter/Petition for Reconsideration (Petition filed on October 14, 2004 by ''The Brotherhood of Unified Taxi Drivers/Owners'' (Brotherhood)).
History of the Proceeding
By Order entered June 15, 2004, the Commission approved a temporary fuel surcharge for motor carriers providing call or demand service, airport transfer service and paratransit service. See Special Permission No. 28208. The fuel surcharge was granted in response to the recent, unanticipated rise in retail gasoline prices. Call or demand carriers were authorized to charge a temporary fuel surcharge of $.30 per trip for each paying passenger. Paratransit and airport transfer carriers were authorized to charge a temporary fuel surcharge of $.70 per trip for each paying passenger. The fuel surcharge was effective June 14, 2004, and will terminate on June 12, 2005. The Bureau of Transportation and Safety was directed to investigate the merits of the fuel surcharge on a quarterly basis, beginning September 30, 2004, or as otherwise directed by the Commission.
On July 14, 2004, the Brotherhood filed a Petition with the Commission requesting reconsideration of the amount of the fuel surcharge for Medallion taxicabs providing transportation in Philadelphia. The basis for the Brotherhood's request was the increased cost of premium fuel used in Medallion vehicles. By Order entered August 19, 2004, the Commission denied the petition, finding that the $0.30 fuel surcharge amount was proper for Medallion taxicabs regardless of the type of fuel used in the vehicles. The Commission also clarified that the fuel surcharge could be applied to the $20.00 flat rate charged to passengers traveling from the Philadelphia International Airport to the downtown area, and vice versa. Finally the Commission used the opportunity in its August 19, 2004 Order to permit call and demand carriers to add the fuel surcharge to the initial mile increment or flag drop of their metered rates.
On October 13, 2004, the Brotherhood filed a second Petition requesting the Commission reconsider the amount of the fuel surcharge for Medallion taxicabs. On October 14, 2004, the Brotherhood amended its second Petition. Currently, the Brotherhood requests that the fuel surcharge for Medallion taxicabs be increased to $.50 per passenger for metered fares, and $2.00 for all airport trips subject to the $20.00 flat rate.
The Public Utility Code establishes a party's right to seek relief following the issuance of our final decisions pursuant to Subsections 703(f) and (g) of the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § 703(f) and (g), relating to re-hearings, rescission and amendment of orders. Such requests for relief must be consistent with Section 5.572(b) of our Regulations, 52 Pa. Code § 5.572(b), relating to petitions for relief following the issuance of a final decision. The standards for a petition for relief following a final decision were addressed in Duick v. PG&W, 56 Pa. PUC 553 (1982), (Duick).
Duick held that a petition for rehearing under Subsection 703(f) of the Public Utility Code must allege newly discovered evidence not discoverable through the exercise of due diligence prior to the close of the record. Duick, at 558. A petition for reconsideration or modification under Subsection 703(g), however, may properly raise any matter designed to convince us that we should exercise our discretion to amend, modify, or rescind a prior Order, in whole or in part. Furthermore, such petitions are likely to succeed only when they raise ''new and novel arguments'' not previously heard or considerations which appear to have been overlooked or not addressed by us. Duick, at 559. AT&T v. Pa. PUC, 568 A.2d 1362 (Pa. Cmwlth Ct. 1990), further elucidated the standards for rehearing, reconsideration, revision, or rescission.
The Brotherhood offers three reasons why we should grant reconsideration and, on the merits, an increased fuel surcharge to Medallion taxicabs. First, the Brotherhood alleges that the time frame used by the Commission in examining retail prices for gasoline should be expanded beyond the May, 2002, through May, 2004 period, since the Medallion industry's rates, established in 1990, are based, in part, on the price of gasoline in 1990. Second, the Brotherhood avers that current Philadelphia Medallion taxicab tariff encourages that industry to seek a fuel recovery when the price for unleaded gasoline exceeds $1.20 per gallon. Third, the Brotherhood alleges that the current retail price of gasoline in the Philadelphia metropolitan area is higher than other regions of the State. These factors warrant reconsideration.
In our June 15 Order, the Surcharge was based on the May 2002 gas price of $1.35 per gallon relative to current prices. Also, the June 15 Order, used an average of 15.04 miles per gallon, which is a national average figure provided by the Pennsylvania Taxicab and Paratransit Association
The Commission's 1990 investigation at Docket No. I-900003, which last established rates for Medallion taxicabs, based the rates charged on an average price per gallon of $1.20 for unleaded gasoline in the Philadelphia area. Upon further review of the merits, we believe the requested relief should be based on the $1.20 per gallon agreed upon in the general rate proceeding for Medallion cabs in 1990. There has been no general rate increase for Medallion cabs since that time. Using the 1990 cost of $1.20 per gallon warrants a $.20 increase in the current Surcharge of $.30 to a total of $.50 per trip for metered trips. The surcharge for airport trips subject to the $20.00 flat rate should be increased by this same amount, per trip. The $.50 is based upon an average trip distance of 6.8 miles and 11.5 average miles per gallon. It is appropriate to use 11.5 miles per gallon as this resulted from a survey by the Pennsylvania Taxicab and Paratransit Association of its members and is reflective of over 1,000 vehicles in Pennsylvania.
However, we are not persuaded that the record warrants increasing the Surcharge for airport trips above $.50 to the $2.00 requested, since the approximate trip length from the Airport to the Philadelphia downtown area nears the 6.8 mile average trip length. Nor is there any justification on the record supporting a Surcharge applicable to each passenger in a metered trip.
Accordingly, for the above reasons, the Petition of the Brotherhood of Unified Taxi Drivers/Owners is granted in part and denied in part. Therefore,
It Is Ordered That:
1. The Petition of the Brotherhood of Taxi Drivers/Owners is granted in part and denied in part, effective November 22, 2004.
2. An increase of $.20 per trip to the current $.30 Temporary Fuel Cost Recovery Surcharge, for a total of $.50, is granted for metered trips.
3. An increase of $.20 per trip to the current $.30 Temporary Fuel Cost Recovery Surcharge, for a total of $.50, is granted for trips to and from the Philadelphia International Airport.
4. The Commission directs the Bureau of Transportation and Safety to continue to review and report to the Commission concerning the appropriateness of the level of the fuel surcharge on a quarterly basis.
5. A copy of this Order shall be served on the Philadelphia Parking Authority and published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
6. Medallion carriers shall revise the notice to the public of the fuel surcharge, as required by ordering paragraph 5 of our June 15, 2004 Order, to reflect the $.50 per trip surcharge.
JAMES J. MCNULTY,
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 04-2214. Filed for public inspection December 10, 2004, 9:00 a.m.]
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