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FairfaxTransportationFairfax to consider more leeway for taxi-company owner

Fairfax to consider more leeway for taxi-company owner

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Taxis operating in Fairfax County next year might be allowed to be a little older or higher-mileage, if the Board of Supervisors approves proposed rule changes.

Supervisors are prepping a Jan. 24 hearing to discuss relaxing the county’s rules on how old taxicabs may be or how miles they may be driven before replacement.

The local taxicab market became a monopoly Sept. 1 when White Top Cab ceased operations in the county and returned their 20 taxicab certificates. That left only Old Dominion Transportation Group (ODTG) and its fleet of 109 gas-powered vehicles and 21 hybrid vehicles.

ODTG on Oct. 11 requested that the county relax its rules allowing taxis to be a maximum of 10 years old or driven fewer than 500,000 miles, whichever comes first.

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Company leaders said the business and its drivers have had difficulty replacing taxis because of disruptions in the market for new and used vehicles.

County officials now are proposing to stretch the maximum taxi age to 12 years for gasoline-only-powered, non-wheelchair-accessible vehicles and 15 years for hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric and wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

The new rules would take effect Jan. 25 and not cap mileage, as officials say it is sufficient that taxis 7 years or older already each year undergo inspections twice by Fairfax County and once by the commonwealth.

The proposed change “balances the challenges of the taxicab operators, considers the practice of local jurisdictions, ensures the safety of the riding public, and helps the environment,” county staff wrote in a memorandum.

The modified rules would comport more closely with standards used by surrounding jurisdictions, they wrote.

The altered rules would help retain current taxicab drivers and recruit new ones, reduce the county’s greenhouse-gas emissions and incentivize replacement of gas-powered vehicles with those running on alternative fuels, county officials said.

Helping the taxicab industry supports a multi-modal transportation system that bolsters health, congestion mitigation, economic growth and the county’s prosperity goals, officials said.

Some county residents are not able to use public transportation and rely on cabs, officials said. Cabs in 2020 served more than 327,000 passengers and made 2,769 wheelchair-accessible trips, they said.

Cabs also transport about 90 special-needs and disabled students to and from school and provide service to about 1,400 people enrolled in the Transportation Options, Programs & Services (TOPS) program, officials said.

Twenty-five of ODTG’s vehicles (19 company-owned and six privately owned by drivers) will no longer qualify under the current rules as of Dec. 31.

Because 112 of the company’s 130 vehicles are in service, the business will be able to adjust for the disqualified vehicles during the interim before supervisors make their decision. The company also will allow drivers of the six privately owned cabs to use company cabs without a lease fee from Jan. 1 through 24.

The local taxicab industry has been pummeled from multiple directions over the past few years. Ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft cut into its ridership, the pandemic hampered business and higher gas prices drove up costs, only some of which have been ameliorated.

County supervisors twice this year approved emergency taxicab-fuel charges to lessen the burden on cab companies. One up-to-$1-per-trip surcharge was in effect from April 13 through June 11; an up-to-$2-per-trip surcharge took effect June 29 and was set to expire Dec. 29 if not extended.

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