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Morning Notes

Construction continues on a commuter parking garage on Monument Drive in Fair Lakes (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Huntington House Fire Displaces Six — Fairfax County and Alexandria City firefighters responded to a house fire in the 2500 block of Massey Court at 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday (July 6). Started accidentally in “an electrical event involving the attic fan,” the blaze displaced six residents and caused approximately $134,500 in damages, though no injuries were reported. [FCFRD]

Body, Possibly of Missing Man, Found in Newington — “Fairfax County Police say they found a body inside a car thought to belong to a man missing since May. According to officials, 53-year-old Juan Ward from Woodbridge, Virginia, was last seen on May 24…Police said Ward disappeared under unusual circumstances.” [WUSA9]

Dulles Airport Lands Funding for New Concourse — “Dulles International Airport will receive $49.6 million to help fund a new regional airline concourse, among 85 airports receiving part of a nearly $1 billion grant stemming from last year’s infrastructure bill approved by Congress…The funding puts Dulles one step closer to construction of a new Concourse A, which serves United Airlines’ regional flights.” [WTOP]

Supervisors Approve Extra Taxi Surcharge — “As fuel prices remain high, the Fairfax Board of Supervisors in late June approved a temporary uncodified ordinance that provides an emergency $2-per-trip taxicab fuel surcharge through Dec. 29.” [Inside NoVA]

Fairfax County to Overhaul Development Process — The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on July 19 to consider changes to its site-specific plan amendment (SSPA) process, which is used for development proposals that require altering the county’s Comprehensive Plan. Proposed revisions focus on shortening the timeline and taking a more targeted approach to public engagement. [Annandale Today]

Superintendent Michelle Reid Makes Introduction — “After several months of preparation and a six-day, cross-country drive, I wanted to reach out and share again how excited I am to be here in Fairfax County and to be part of the Fairfax County Public Schools family!” [FCPS]

What to Do in the Town of Vienna — “Vienna sits in the shadow of its bigger neighbor Tysons Corner. But don’t let the town’s low profile fool you: Its cornucopia of shops, events, and restaurants make Vienna a worthwhile day-trip destination.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Frying Pan Fair Returns — Fairfax County’s 4-H Fair and Carnival will be back at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon on Aug. 7. The event will feature carnival rides, games, food trucks, a Big Truck Night and farm demonstrations. A list of food vendors and other details will be released in the coming weeks. [Fairfax County Park Authority]

It’s Friday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 85 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:52 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]

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

As gas prices continue to rise, cab drivers in Fairfax County may be getting even more help at the pump.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is looking at implementing an emergency $2 fuel surcharge on every trip starting later this month. That would double the current surcharge, which was implemented in April, as gas prices have climbed even compared to two months ago.

“The current emergency taxicab fuel surcharge of $1.00 only covers an increase in fuel cost up to $4.30 per gallon,” the staff report notes.

The average gas price in Fairfax County is currently $5.02, according to the American Automobile Association.

“Taxicab drivers already operate on low margins, but they play an important role for many residents and visitors to Fairfax County,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement to FFXnow. “It is vital to keep them operational and, additionally, it is not fair for the taxicab drivers themselves to be impacted by devastating increases in fuel prices throughout the county. This is a temporary surcharge increase that we have the ability to rescind as gas prices hopefully fall in the future.”

The initial $1 surcharge ordinance expires this Saturday (June 11). If approved, the new one would begin June 29 and last six months — essentially to the end of 2022 — “unless rescinded.”

When it met yesterday (Tuesday), the county board approved a June 21 public hearing to discuss the increase. A vote on the measure is anticipated on June 28. If approved, it will be implemented the next day.

A number of neighboring jurisdictions have implemented similar fuel surcharges. Arlington’s $1 charge went into effect mid-May and will be on the books for six months. The City of Alexandria’s dollar surcharge began in March and could last up to a year.

Beyond those employed by the industry, keeping the taxi business afloat is important for a number of other county residents, according to the staff report.

“The on-demand availability of safe and reliable taxicab services…is important to the public well being, especially for those consumers unable to use public transportation and who rely on taxicab service for their basic transportation needs,” it reads.

The county government and Fairfax County Public Schools work with cab companies for special-needs transportation, including providing nearly 3,000 wheelchair accessible trips in 2020.

Cabs are also part of the TOPS program, which provides subsidized transportation to eligible residents. The report says TOPS participants take about 134 taxicab trips per month, so the fuel surcharge is estimated to cost the county about $1,600 extra per month.

Approximately 90 students with disabilities and special needs use cabs to go to and from school. FCPS estimates that an extra $15,000 will be needed for the surcharge, but it will be able to absorb the extra costs into its budgets.

The ordinance leaves room for the surcharge to be extended, increased or rescinded “if prices fall significantly.”

There’s hope that the surcharge may actually increase the number of cab drivers in the county.

“The $2.00 per-trip emergency taxicab fuel surcharge will continue to provide relief to the taxicab drivers who are suffering an economic hardship from increased fuel costs,” the report said. “This increase may also help retain current drivers and recruit new drivers.”

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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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