By Chris Francescani
(Reuters) - The cost of a New York cab ride rose by 17 percent on Tuesday, which several residents and visitors seemed to take in stride.
The fare hike -- the first since 2006 -- follows an increase in U.S. gas prices, which averaged $3.77 a gallon last week, up from about $2 in 2000, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Some city cab drivers say they shell out as much as $4.50 a gallon at Manhattan gas stations.
Tourists seemed untroubled by an increase that raised the average price of an evening rush hour cab ride to $12.21 for a 2.8 mile ride, according to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. Back in 1952, the same ride cost 83 cents.
"When you're spending so much money already, it's a drop in the bucket," said Teresa Henderson, 63, who was visiting from Adelaide, Australia. "And it's worth it - a 45 minute walk took us five minutes in a taxi."
Henderson's sister, Maria Webb, agreed. "They absolutely deserve a raise," said Webb, 59. "They have to drive in this mad traffic. Plus, these gas prices are outrageous."
New Yorker Christopher Keating, 42, said slight increases over time would have been better than a steep fare hike.
"A 17 percent hike all at once is a little hard to swallow," Keating said. "They may deserve a raise, but it seems like it would make more sense in smaller increments, year to year."
The increase took effect at midnight, but drivers have until September 30 to recalibrate their meters and change the rates listed on the sides of their cars. After a $2.50 initial fee, every fifth of a mile will cost 50 cents, up from 40 cents. The flat rate from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Manhattan rose from $45 to $52.
At area airports, the new fares raised a few tempers.
When cabbie Leslie Nequay picked up his first passenger at John F. Kennedy International Airport, he warned the businessman in his back seat of the new $52 flat fare.
"He got very, very angry," said Nequay, an immigrant from Ghana who pays $115 a day to rent the cab from its owner, plus about $40 a day for gas. "He didn't believe me. He said I was trying to rob him."
(Reporting By Chris Francescani; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Stacey Joyce)