Arlington County Board members on May 14 will hold what is likely to be a pro-forma public hearing before enacting a surcharge on taxi fares to help cabbies survive the high-gas-price environment the nation now finds itself in.
Under the recommendation, there would be a $1-per-trip surcharge tacked onto the final fare and would be in place from June 1 to Nov. 30. The surcharge, sought by local taxi companies, is recommended by county-government staff and was supported on a 10-0 vote by the Transportation Commission.
(The extra dollar would go to drivers, if they are independent contractors who pay for their own gasoline.)
The Arlington surcharge would be added to current fares, which open at $3 and then grow at a rate of 36 cents for each one-sixth-mile traveled. Those rates are unchanged since 2016 and will next be evaluated in 2023.
Surcharges are rare but not unheard of; County Board members in mid-2008 joined other localities in enacting them at a time when a gallon of gas had spiked to more than $4.10 in the local area.
Unlike the current proposal, which delays the start of the surcharge for several weeks after enactment, the 2008 increase went into effect immediately (even though, as in the current situation, Arlington was late to enact a surcharge compared to surrounding jurisdictions).
This time around, Arlington also is playing catch-up: The District of Columbia government in mid-March approved a similar surcharge for taxis in that jurisdiction. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on April 11 adopted a $1-per-trip surcharge.
The local taxi industry in recent years has been dramatically impacted by the emergence of ride-share firms such as Uber and Lyft, and was further impacted by a ridership dropoff during the COVID crisis.
As a result, the total number of cabs authorized by the county government to operate has declined from 847 in 2017 to 477 in 2022.