Got to Call a Cab?

Capping a Controversy

Corrections or additions?

(This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

December 2, 1998. All rights reserved.)

Yellow Cabs, Where Are You?

Your guests are coming for the holidays, and you have

to get them to and from the train station, or to and from the airport,

or to and from the hotel, and for whatever reason (like, you have

to earn a living?) you can’t drive them yourself.

But the cost of taxis in Princeton may come as an unpleasant surprise,

particularly if you are used to paying New York prices. In New York,

you can go from Uptown to Downtown for $10 to $12. Here, $10 might

get you from the Princeton Junction train station to downtown

Princeton

(say, the Nassau Inn), a seven-minute drive off peak. If you call

the Nassau Street cab stand you might be quoted $10 just to get two

people from the Jewish Center, at Nassau and Snowden Lane, to the

Dinky station.

Why so much more? Unless you get one from the taxi stand, you have

to call cabs here. You can’t just hail a cab, as you do in Manhattan.

So you pay $1 to call a cab. Also, cabs don’t have meters here. They

have flat rates, based on $2.50 per mile plus $2 per person. And some

cab companies charge more every time they cross a municipal line.

Of course if you are making that train station trip at rush hour,

and 20 minutes later you are still stuck in traffic on Washington

Road, 10 bucks will seem like a bargain.

South Brunswick’s ABC Taxi has flat rates which do not have anything

to do with municipal boundaries. The mileage, and pick-up charges

(as applicable) determine the cost. But taxis in Princeton Borough

have one set of fees for within the borough ($4 for the first

passenger,

$5 at night, $1 for each additional passenger, $1 for a pick-up) and

a different set for destinations out of the borough.

Sometimes the miles the taxi has to go to get to the customer would

be more than the actual trip. In that case the total mileage would

determine the cost. For instance call a Princeton cab to go from the

Hyatt to just a few blocks within the Carnegie Center and you pay

$10. Call a West Windsor cab and you pay $6.

From the Junction train station to Rocky Hill should cost $18 if you

get a cab from the cab stand. But if you call a cab, the prices could

vary from $20 to $30, depending on where the cab comes from.

Other sample fares show how much cheaper it is to use the closest

cab service. From Forrestal Hotel & Conference Center to MarketFair,

it is $14 with Plainsboro’s ABC Taxi or $18 with Princeton’s A Local

Taxi. But from Carnegie Center to Quakerbridge Mall, it is $12 with

Bob’s Plainsboro Taxi or $14 with ABC Taxi.

Similarly, it’s about $30 to the Trenton train station, whether it

takes 20 minutes at off peak or longer during the rush. The $30 is

from the Nassau Inn. As you would expect, you pay a couple dollars

more from the Forrestal Hotel, a couple dollars less from the Hyatt.

To have someone picked up at Newark Airport, expect to pay nearly

$90 for a sedan to your home or office. A-1 Limousine’s basic charge

is $72 for a sedan reserved in advance. Add a 15 percent ($10) tip,

$3 for roundtrip tolls, and parking costs of at least $5. The price

is the same for one or two people, or three people who aren’t

overloaded

with luggage. "You pay for the car, not the person," says

the dispatcher.

By arranging to meet your guest at a predetermined point, the cab

companies do it for $10 or $12 less. Bob’s Plainsboro Taxi’s basic

fee is $65 plus tolls but you don’t have parking charges. If you tell

your guest to take just any available taxi, be sure your guest is

equipped with a good map of Princeton. We’ve all seen taxis with New

York plates wandering, confused, between Route 1 and Route 27, ringing

up higher fares by the minute.

If your able-bodied guest with minimal luggage can wait

for a $24 shuttle, arrange a pick-up with the Airporter, and then

meet your guest at one of the hotels. (Hint: meet at the Hyatt or

another hotel where there is enough parking. The parking-impaired

Nassau Inn is the last stop.) Children accompanied by an adult ride

free on the Airporter, and shuttles leave every hour, says Goodner

Grouser, Airporter’s new general manager. For the return trip to the

airport, they now leave as early as 4:15 a.m.

Limousines are a bargain if a whole family is coming. For less than

$150 (including A-1’s basic fee of $116 plus the extras) you can stuff

the aunt, uncle and kiddies — up to six people — in the limo,

and make them feel like royalty. No extra charges for extra people.

Compare that to slogging up the turnpike in heavy traffic, paying

tolls, waiting around, well, you know the drill.

That’s just for Newark Airport. Unfortunately, no shuttles run to

Princeton from Philadelphia Airport. But though cab companies charge

$20 to $25 more to Philadelphia Airport, A-1 Limousine’s prices are

the same for both. (The budget method of getting to and from

Philadelphia,

fun only for four-year-olds, involves a shuttle, three trains, and

a taxi.)

The trip to JFK Airport (a drive to be avoided at any cost, even if

you happen to have the free time) would be $34 on the Airporter

shuttle.

A-1 charges $115 for a sedan (plus those tolls and tips) and $150

for a limo, and taxis will run slightly less.

If your guest is staying at a hotel, you may be able to commandeer

the hotel’s van services for local drops. Somehow, though, those van

services are never available exactly when you need them.

So it’s back to taxis. Now comes the question, what taxi is reliable?

Every township except Plainsboro and East Windsor has a licensing

procedure. In West Windsor, each license costs $75 per year plus $75

per driver. Just because they are licensed, however, does not mean

they will answer the phone.

The taxi stand on Nassau Street is like the proverbial watched pot.

Go by there in your car and the cabs are lined up. But when you need

a cab and call 888-265-1222 there is no guarantee that anyone will

answer.

All sources agree that, unless you are going to hire a limo, the cab

services most likely to show up are the radio-controlled ones, which

also happen to be larger and available 24 hours a day (or 22 hours

daily, closing down from 3 to 5 a.m.). In Princeton that’s A-1 AAA

Princeton Taxi (800-481-TAXI). A-1 AAA gets the nod of approval from

the concierge at the Nassau Inn — and from Yellow Cab in Trenton.

Even at these prices, taxi drivers aren’t getting rich. Unless they

own their own cab, drivers earn from $20,000 to $25,000 if they work

a regular 45-hour week. They make 45 percent of gross plus tips and

can of course earn more by working longer hours or by buying their

own cab. But the auto insurance for each vehicle is $7,000, more than

the hacks pay in Manhattan.

As for tips: "Some people who use the car every day to go to work

don’t tip," says Eric Salat, co-owner of ABC Taxi. "If they

are making $10 an hour they spend two hours of their pay getting back

and forth to work. Corporate people, they tip." Salat says he

and his partner Adel Badran opened ABC Taxi last year because South

Brunswick residents were paying $12 or $15 for a Plainsboro or New

Brunswick cab. "When the only public transportation is the bus

on Route 27, people are very happy that they can go around town for

$6 or $5."

— Barbara Fox

Top Of Page
Got to Call a Cab?

A Local Taxicab, Box 3284, Princeton 08540-. John

Samuel, owner. 609-924-5040.

A-1 Limousine, 2 Emmons Drive, Princeton

08540-9923.

Michael Starr, president and CEO. 609-951-0070. Home page:

http://www.a1limo.com.

A-1 AAA Princeton Taxi Inc., 222 North Harrison,

Princeton 08540. Danny Palumbo. 609-921-1177. 24 hour service, radio

dispatched.

A-1 Princeton Taxi. 609-924-1400. Also Associated

Taxi Stand, 609-924-1222, 888-265-1222.

ABC Taxi, 613 Ridge Road, Old English Square

Shopping

Center, Monmouth Junction 08852. Adel Badran, co-owner. 732-274-1300.

E-mail: bzbzbzb103@aol.com.

Airporter, 2531 East State Street, Trenton 08619.

Alan Glickman, chairman/CEO. 800-385-4000. Home page:

http://www.goairporter.com.

Transportation to JFK and Newark airports.

Bob’s Plainsboro Taxi. 609-275-4242, package

service,

24 hour service.

Executive Limo & Plainsboro Car Service, 607

Plainsboro

Road, Plainsboro 08536. Bob Flesch, owner. 609-275-4542.

Johnny’s Taxi, 110 Main Street, Hightstown. John

DeKlapsogeorge, proprietor. 609-448-2492. 24 hour service, radio

dispatched

Plainsboro Taxi, 607 Plainsboro Road, Plainsboro

08536. 609-275-4542.

Princeton Graytop Limousine, Box 307, Cranbury

08512. Nick Singelakis. 609-921-1122 or, outside the 609 area,

800-922-1123.

Top Of Page
Capping a Controversy

Picture this: you are going to the Hyatt in West Windsor and you take

a cab licensed in another township. You ask that cab company to pick

you up four hours later. Theoretically your cabbie could get a traffic

ticket, worth up to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail, for going back

to West Windsor for the return trip. That’s because any cab can make

a drop off, but only cabs licensed in West Windsor are allowed to

make pickups.

In actual practice, we hasten to say, your cabbie would not get a

ticket. West Windsor police are not going to seek out trespassing

cab drivers anywhere but at the Junction train station, says Sgt.

Frank Coyle. Coyle presided over the writing of the new taxicab

ordinance,

which went into effect on November 23. It capped the number of taxi

licenses at 42, but it also created a uniform rate sheet that is

slightly

lower than what most taxis were charging.

Even the old ordinance, Coyle says, could prevent taxis not licensed

in West Windsor from doing business in the township. And even though

Coyle is enforcing the ordinance only at the train station, cabbies

outside West Windsor are disgruntled.

"There is no other town that prevents taxicabs from coming to

pick up people. If each township passed that same ordinance nobody

would be able to pick up anybody," says Eric Salat, co-owner of

ABC Taxi, which is licensed in South Brunswick. "The residents

don’t know about it yet. I would be outraged." Salat’s ABC Taxi

was started last year and is licensed in South Brunswick. It bought

no West Windsor license before the capping ordinance. Now, because

of the cap, it can’t buy one.

"It’s right that only West Windsor’s licensed cars can wait at

the train station," says Salat. "But now they don’t even want

us coming into their town to pick up people. If somebody says they

don’t have any cabs available, or that it will be a 35-minute wait,

do you want the opportunity to call us up? We are working with our

attorneys now."

Bob Flesch, owner of Bob’s Plainsboro Taxi, agrees with Salat, even

though his firm is not personally affected. Though 90 percent of

Plainsboro

Taxi’s business is by reservation, Flesch does hold three taxi

licenses

in West Windsor. "The ordinance doesn’t make any sense," says

Flesch, when told that the ordinance could theoretically prevent cabs

without West Windsor licenses from responding to calls in West

Windsor.

"That’s asinine. The only way they can enforce that is at the

Princeton Junction train station. The customer has every right to

pick and choose what company they want."

The ordinance resulted from passenger complaints about high prices,

says Carole Carson, the mayor, so the township worked out a rate sheet

and the taxi owners licensed in West Windsor agreed to comply with

it in return for capping licenses and thus limiting competition.

"It

was an effort to deal with safety issues," says Carson, "to

make sure our residents and guests are getting into taxis that are

safe, that drivers have passed rigorous background checks, and that

the rates are consistent and fair."

The ordinance does not apply to limousine drivers. Salat objects:

"What is a limousine driver but a taxi driver in a suit?"


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