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A BP gas station in Shirlington (file photo by Jay Westcott)

The Fourth of July is almost here and if there’s one thing on the minds of people traveling for the holiday, it’s gas prices.

The average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded in Virginia is currently $4.73, though in Arlington you’re more likely to find prices around $5. Only one Arlington station tracked by GasBuddy has a price lower than the state average.

One would think that the high price of fuel would keep more people at home for the holiday, but AAA recently predicted that 2022 will set a new record for Fourth of July car travel.

Earlier this year, an ARLnow poll found that fewer people were planning to travel for Memorial Day (25%) compared to 2013 (35%), when we posted a similar poll. Another ARLnow poll in March, when gas prices were about $4.20 per gallon, found that 25% of respondents reported driving less due to high gas prices.

So some combination of gas prices and other factors — the pandemic, perhaps, either as a result of precautions or practical things like someone testing positive for the virus — is likely to keep some people at home. But how many? Let’s try to find out.

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Morning Notes

Post-it Notes on the office building at 1600 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, congratulating a graduating H-B Woodlawn student who’s noted for her Post-It Note art (courtesy photo)

School’s Out for Summer — Today is the last day of high school for Arlington Public Schools students. Tomorrow is the last day of middle school and Friday is the last day of elementary school. [Arlington Public Schools]

Meetings Planned for Route 1 Changes — “Two upcoming online forums will look at Virginia Department of Transportation proposals for U.S. Route 1 through the Crystal City corridor. On June 15 at 7 p.m., the Livability 22202 Route 1 Working Group and VDOT proposals will be presented and feedback sought… On June 21 at 6:30 p.m., VDOT will host a public-information meeting on the proposal.” [Sun Gazette, VDOT]

Yorktown Girls Win State Soccer Tourney — “A season that began with a loss ended with no other setbacks and a state championship for the Yorktown Patriots. The girls soccer team won the Virginia High School League Class 6 state tournament by nipping the Kellam Knights, 1-0, in the June 11 title game.” [Sun Gazette, Washington Post]

DJO Softball Wins State Title — “The [Bishop O’Connell] Knights capped a dominant campaign with their 26th Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state title over the past 28 seasons. Katie Kutz tossed 235 strikeouts and went 17-0 while batting .482 at the plate en route to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and VISAA player of the year nods.” [Washington Post]

Groundbreaking for Bus Maintenance Yard — “Arlington County will host a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning for its new Arlington Transit (ART) operations and maintenance facility. The public is invited to attend. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the site of the future facility at 2629 Shirlington Rd. in Arlington in the Green Valley neighborhood.” [Patch]

School Board Absences — “The board, whose schedule of meetings is approved at the start of each fiscal year, has had a tough time gathering all five members on the dais at one time in recent months. Goldstein frequently has been absent, and at the May 26 meeting Priddy was gone. (On May 26, Diaz-Torres was not attending in person but did participate remotely from Puerto Rico, Kanninen said at the start of that meeting.)” [Sun Gazette]

More Bad Driving on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “This is a new one. Driver just stops at the end of the gore partially blocking the left lane until they can figure out their next move.” [Twitter]

Gov. Proposes Three-Month Gas Tax Holiday — “In Arlington, Virginia, the cost of regular gas is around $5.29. As gas prices continue to climb, CG Green says he’s pumping the brakes on unnecessary trips. ‘Look at it, it’s crazy,’ said Green. ‘It’s $5.29 for gas. I have to rethink where I’m going.’ Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin says he is in favor of temporarily suspending the commonwealth’s gas tax.” [WUSA 9]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 68. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Taxi drivers protest Uber and Lyft with road slowdown in Courthouse in 2014 (file photo)

The Arlington County Board is considering two changes to help alleviate challenges facing the local taxicab industry.

The Board will consider allowing taxi companies to charge customers a temporary $1 fee due to rising gas prices. At the same time, it will separately consider increasing the number of years a vehicle may be used as a taxi.

Both items before the Board could go to a vote on May 14, dependant on a vote to advertise that date at this Saturday’s meeting.

If approved, the $1 surcharge per trip could be implemented for the six months between June 1 through Nov. 30, 2022.

“Gas prices have increased in the past year and substantially within the past month due to global unrest and macroeconomic factors,” according to a county report. “This is increasing operating costs for taxicab drivers.”

The county sets the fare rate for cabs on a biennial basis but the next analysis of the rate isn’t until 2023. But out-of-cycle amendments can be made with County Board approval.

The last time the rate was set, in 2016, it cost $3 for the start of the trip and $2.16 per mile after that, according to the report. Since, gas prices have risen to around $4.50 per gallon in the D.C. area. Other jurisdictions have enacted similar surcharges, with the District implementing a $1 surcharge for 120 days, and Fairfax County doing the same for two months ending June 11.

A graph shows the rising gas prices over the last year (via Arlington County)

The County Board is also looking to increase the maximum age of taxi vehicles, which is currently capped at 10 years. The age cap change would depend on the type of vehicle.

From a report to the County Board:

  • Increase the maximum model-year age for service from ten (10) years to twelve (12) years for gasoline-only powered non-wheelchair accessible vehicles;
  • Increase the maximum model-year age for service from ten (10) years to fifteen (15) years for wheelchair accessible vehicles; and
  • Increase the maximum model-year age for service from ten (10) years to fifteen (15) years for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and/or electric vehicles.

If you’ve noticed fewer taxicabs on the road in Arlington, it’s not just your imagination.

Facing continued competition from companies like Uber and Lyft, the number of taxis authorized to operate in the county has decreased to 477 from 847 in 2017. Vehicles used for ride-sharing apps, dubbed Transportation Network Companies, are allowed to operate for longer, at 14 years and 16 years, than those that are operated through the six Arlington cab companies.

“This difference puts an inequitable cost burden on taxi operators to replace their vehicles more frequently than their TNC counterparts,” the report says.

The report also points to the importance of the cab fleet in providing service as part of the Specialized Transit for Arlington Residents (STAR) paratransit program. Out of the 477 currently authorized vehicles, 39 are wheelchair accessible, the report says.

The Transportation Commission has already recommended the Board  adopt the life-span changes and gas surcharge following public hearings. Both ordinance changes were requested by taxicab companies that operate in Arlington, including Crown, Hess, Friendly, Red Top, Arlington Yellow, and Blue Top Cab.

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A BP gas station near Shirlington (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Are rising gas prices having an effect on your driving habits?

Local gas prices have reached record-breaking levels, including $4.35 per gallon in D.C. and $4.20 per gallon in Northern Virginia, Axios reported yesterday.

The cause? Increased travel leading to rising fuel demand, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to sanctions and bans against Russian oil. And the pain at the pump may extend well into the summer, while oil production catches up with the new global realities.

With a $4 per gallon or higher price of gas looking like it’s here to stay, we’re wondering whether Arlingtonians are making any changes. Let us know in the poll how your driving habits are changing, broadly, and feel free to go into more detail in the comments.

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