Arlington, VA

(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) The Arlington County Board is scheduled to consider a fare hike for Arlington taxi operators this weekend.

The proposal would raise the initial drop charge from $2.75 to $3.00 and would raise the charge for additional passengers from $1.00 to $1.50. Arlington County staff is recommending the Board approve the increase in order to offset an estimated 5 percent rise in expenses for taxi drivers since the last fare hike in 2008. (The per-mile rate was increased from $1.80 to $2.00 in July 2008)

Although taxi drivers in Arlington drive branded taxi cabs — Red Top, Blue Top, Envirocab, etc. — they are actually independent business owners who merely pay the cab companies fees for use of the name and other services. Therefore it’s the drivers, not the companies, that are affected when gas prices or insurance rates increase. Arlington County estimates that cab drivers here currently make between $40,000 and $60,000 per year, after expenses.

To provide a benefit to local taxi riders who will be affected by the fare hike, the Board will consider a new rule requiring credit card machines in all Arlington-based taxicabs. Also, to lessen the impact of the fare hike on families, county staff is recommending the Board exempt riders younger than 12 from the additional passenger charge. Currently, the charge is only waived for children younger than 6 years old.

The fare hike will not only affect riders, but will affect the county’s bottom line as well. Staff estimates that the rate increase will cost Arlington’s STAR para-transit program — which uses taxis to transport disabled citizens — more than $12,000 per year.

If approved, the rate hike would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. The credit card requirement would take effect on Dec. 1, 2012.

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