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Fairfax County allows $1 surcharge for taxi rides to offset high gas prices

A taxicab in a parking lot (staff photo by David Taube)

Taxi drivers in Fairfax County will get some help at the pump.

The county’s Board of Supervisors approved a measure yesterday (Tuesday) to let taxicabs tack on a $1 fuel surcharge for each trip, following a staff recommendation and a private company’s request for twice that amount.

“The $1.00 per-trip emergency taxicab fuel surcharge will provide immediate relief to the taxicab drivers who are suffering an economic hardship from increased fuel costs,” county staff wrote in a memo.

The measure doesn’t apply to ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber, which introduced their own surcharge policies on March 16 that go entirely to drivers, though they were 55 cents per trip or less.

Old Dominion Transportation Group, which owns Fairfax Yellow Cab, Fairfax Red Top Cab and Springfield Yellow Cab, requested an emergency gas surcharge of $2 on March 17 for drivers licensed in Fairfax County, with 100% of the surcharge paid directly to drivers, county staff said in a memo.

One taxicab driver said his fuel costs used to be around $25 per fill-up. Now, it’s as high as $40. As of yesterday (Tuesday), the average price in the county was nearly $4.20 per gallon, the auto service provider AAA reported.

Cab drivers, who are independent contractors, average nearly seven trips per day, according to a county staff memo. Cabs have been able to charge $3.50 initially for a ride and 36 cents for every one-sixth of a mile traveled. That means customers taking the average trip of approximately 8 miles face a fare of nearly $21, not including a tip.

The private sector and some nearby jurisdictions have also taken steps to provide temporary relief. D.C. approved a measure on March 16 for 120 days, and Prince William County’s relief lasts for 60 days.

Fairfax County’s $1 fuel surcharge starts today (Wednesday) and extends for two months through June 11, but it can be canceled before that date.

Facing competition for customers with mobile-app-driven services, the number of taxicabs in the county have drastically decreased, from 820 taxi drivers in 2013 to 200 in 2020. Old Dominion Transportation Group operates most of the taxicabs in the county, accounting for 130 of 150 vehicles now in service.

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