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LAist's Solved Mysteries: Taxi Rates

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Here at LAist, where the collective brain has all but squashed out our entire individuality (I am a real person, I am!), things like calculating tips and carrying the "1" end up challenging us more than we'd like.

But more complicated than determining what 15% of that dinner bill should be, or if long division really is our strong point, is trying to decipher the science behind why taxi cabs charge what they do, how they do it, and why (for god's sake) does it cost THAT when we're just sitting still in traffic?

LAist, always ready for diving into the questions that plague Angelenos, stuck their neck out into the world of pay-as-you-go transport, and got to the bottom of the answers you need.

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In getting to the bottom of one of LA's (if not, any city's) most complicated conundrum, LAist contacted three local taxi services -- Bell Cab Company (310-207-6888), Culver City Yellow Cab (310-838-2121) and LA Yellow Cab (323-221-0009).

What's easy to track, however, and which is the same across the board is the fact that any LA based taxi company will charge you $2.00 just when you open the door and sit inside. That's your base rate, and it ain't going nowhere. Even for people doing a flat-fee trip from the Airport to Downtown LA, Santa Monica or Hollywood -- it still gets added onto your total flat fee (which ranges from $25-40).

But let's face it, how many times have you sat in traffic and watched the meter rise and wondered to yourself how it all was calculated? Really, they could charge you whatever they wanted to and you really would never have the mental/math faculties to figure out a successful alternative argument against such pricing. And what if you need to stop at a liquor store or a pharmacy and you want the cab to wait for you? Then what? Then what will they do?

What LAist learned is that each cab company does whatever the hell they want.

Take Bell Cab Company, who starts off at $2.00, then charges you $2.00 a mile. But what if you're stopped in traffic? Still $2.00 a mile. What if you're in traffic for an hour? Still, the meter is set to "approximate" what travel time for a mile would be, and charge you that. But what if you're in West Hollywood? For some reason, Bell Cab Company has bowed to some kind of West Hollywood pressure and reduced the per mile rate (only in that area of town) to $1.90 a mile. What the-? Maybe this piece should be alternatively titled, "How West Hollywood Gets Better Deals Than Any Other Part of LA, for some Mysterious, Unknown (Known) Reason?" As for sitting in a parking lot waiting for you to grab that six pack of beer? Up to the cabbie. They can turn off the meter or not. Mostly, they'll just leave it on.

For Culver City Yellow Cab the whole $2.00 per mile while you're sitting still in traffic or while you're grabbing food from Quiznos -- goes out the window. With CC Yellow Cab, if you're moving it's still $2.00 a mile, but if you're standing still or parked -- totally different. In that situation, you're charged $0.20 every thirty seconds. And if most cabs drive a mile in about 2 minutes (figure an average of 30mph on city streets) that means that you ARE getting a deal by sitting still -- about $.80 for two minutes instead of $2.00.

When it comes to LA Yellow Cab, everything remains the same except for the fact that they charge $0.20 for every forty-five seconds of sitting still in a parking lot somewhere. Which, if you plan on going out and doing your errands with a cab, may be the best deal of the bunch.

But overall, it seems that the mystery of taxi cabs and their rates have literally no rhyme or reason to them. Sure, they all start at $2.00, but from there it's anyone's guess. And since most cabs in LA don't have those rates posted on the outside of the cars (which if they did, you'd only be able to read AFTER flagging one down) -- it's all about luck in securing a ride for an evening out.

If this all felt like a word problem on the S.A.T.'s, then LAist's job (er, my job, me, the singular "I") has been done -- to pull back the layer of the taxicab onion and their skewed charging practices, revealing the fact that here in Los Angeles, if you've got a cab, and it's yellow and it has a meter -- you just go ahead and charge whatever you want.

Because in the end -- Angelenos don't care. They just wanna get to where there going, no matter the price.