Blame gas prices for yet another price hike.
This time, it's taxi cab drivers joining the swelling ranks of businesses passing rising fuel costs along to consumers.
Rock Hill's taxi drivers have petitioned city leaders for permission to increase cab fares. The City Council gave an initial nod this week, and final approval could come by the end of the month. If finalized, the city's four cab companies will be allowed to charge up to a $3 base fee and $2.60 a mile. That's up from a $2 base and $2 per mile charge.
"We want to run a good business with well-maintained cabs. That's what this is about," said Tanya Dunphy, co-owner of Carolinas Cab, which operates a fleet of more than a dozen cabs in Rock Hill. "When gas goes up, everything goes up. I feel bad for anyone in transportation."
Rock Hill Customer Services Director Anne Bunton said the change has been worded so cab drivers can raise fares if they see fit, but aren't required to make the hikes. If gas prices recede, city leaders would be able to reduce the maximum fare by a council vote, she said.
Just like the airline industry, trucking industry and individual drivers, taxi drivers have suffered from the pinch at the pump this year. The average price of gas in Rock Hill on Thursday was $3.90 a gallon for regular unleaded, according to AAA Carolinas. That's up from $2.75 a year ago, a 42 percent spike.
"You make one trip and put half the fare into the tank," said Charles Weanquoi, owner-operator of Rock Hill's Nimba Cab & Shuttle. "It's tough."
Fuel prices have nearly doubled since 2006, which was the last time Rock Hill cab drivers asked the city to increase fares. Then, the price went from $1.60 to $2. The pending fare hike, at about 30 percent, is less than the fuel price increases over the same period.
From Carolinas Cab to longtime Rock Hill company Veterans Cab, drivers are reporting spending as much as $50 a day on gas and say the rate increase is a necessity to stay in business.
Dunphy said the rate increase ensures cab companies will be able to keep vehicles maintained and hire reputable drivers instead of pouring all their revenue into the gas tank.
Other transportation services, such as airlines, recently began charging more for extras, including soft drinks and checking extra bags, to pad soft bottom lines.
But Dunphy said her cab company isn't ready to begin charging for luggage or other services. The only extra charge is a $1 gas surcharge for out-of-town rides.
"People call us for a service. I'm not charging for loading a bag," she said. "That's out of the question."
Rock Hill's pending increase follows similar requests across the nation. In Charlotte, city leaders are considering a similar cab fare hike as cabbies there complain of high fuel costs, fewer travelers and too many drivers cutting into their profits.
Weanquoi agrees it's getting tougher to make it as a cab driver. He began serving Rock Hill last year after years in north Charlotte. So far, business for the African immigrant has been weak as more riders look to public transportation and reduce travel, he said.
He hopes the rate hike will help his bottom line. But he worries that escalating prices will eventually only hurt business.
"If the rates get too high, people won't ride," he said. "It's really a double-edged sword."