If you puke, you pay.
Sick of sickened passengers soiling the back seat of their taxis, Key West cabbies may soon get a little help with the cleanup: 50 bucks per hurl.
The Southernmost City could join Chicago and Austin, a city that has put a $100 value on vomit, in imposing an extra cleanup charge.
Is it fair to increase the fare?
Well, cab drivers who work the danger zones, like Key West during Fantasy Fest, know what an expense it is to scrub the cab of tossed cookies.
The 10-day celebration of costumes, parties, drinking and more drinking returns in October. This means a lot of intoxication. And possibly a lot of trashed taxis.
And the proposal is being made in a city that once had to toss cherry-scent bombs in Duval Street trash cans to mask the lingering odor of vomit from hungover bar-hoppers.
According to the Five 6’s taxi company, the largest cab company in Key West, five or six people each year vomit in the back seat. Fantasy Fest and New Year’s seem to be prime time.
“In the event that a taxicab passengers soils the interior of a taxicab with bodily fluids or solids, a $50 clean-up fee will be added to the trip fare,” according to the ordinance, which has been tentatively approved by the Key West City Commission.
The surcharge targets mainly people who are VWI, vomiting while intoxicated. Children or sober riders who just get sick, will probably not have to pay the fee, according to the Five 6’s taxi company.
Taxi company owner Jan Dolan told Key West commissioners that the fee is "for cleaning up the cab when people puke. I’m sorry, that’s the only way I can put it. We can’t enforce it unless it’s in the ordinance."
He said taking cabs off the road for cleanup and disinfecting can take from a couple hours to overnight.
Final hearing on the issue is Wednesday.
In Miami-Dade, which has its share of vomiting passengers exiting the clubs of South Beach, no such fee is in discussion at the moment, said Diego Feliciano, president of the South Florida Taxicab Association.
"I don’t think such a law is necessary,” said Boris Shvartsman, president of Yellow Cab. He said he drove taxis for 18 years and has only seen two passengers vomit in the back seat. Typically, he said, when it happens, cabbies sometimes tack on a fee. Some passengers would pay voluntarily for the mess.
“I haven’t seen a problem with that so far,” said Orlie Jedwab, president of Miami Springs Taxi and Key Transportation.
“I think it happens more in the night shift. I drive during the day,” said cabbie Jose L. Nascimento, who has driven a taxi for seven years. “Tourists are coming here to have fun, they want to party and drink something – so it happens.”
A fee targeting vomiters could prevent people from coming to Miami-Dade, he said.
For cabbie Elise Romein, though, a fee would be like an insurance policy.
“Throwing up – never happened in my cab so far,” said Romein, a 25-year veteran of the roads. "But when it happens, charging $50 ... would be a good idea.”