Prince William area residents who use taxi cabs may be paying 15 to 20 percent more for cab rides.

The two cab companies serving the area, Yellow Cab Co. and Prince William Cab, have proposed raising the fares from $1 for the first one-eighth of a mile to $1.50 for the first one-ninth of a mile, and from 15 cents for each additional one-eighth of a mile to 15 cents for each additional one-ninth of a mile.

The companies say they need the increase, the first in three years, to cover the rising costs of insurance, car maintenance and gasoline. The Board of County Supervisors is scheduled to consider their request Nov. 13 after a public hearing at 2:30 p.m.

The cab companies proposed raising the fare for the first one-ninth of a mile last spring. But they expanded that proposal this fall when gasoline prices began to soar.

"Maybe we're a little bit lucky," said Corky Cochran, who owns Yellow Cab Co. "Nobody knew that this Iraqi thing was going to take off and send gas sky-high."

Also on Dec. 1, the federal tax on gasoline will increase from 9 cents a gallon to 14 cents.

The county's seven-member Taxicab Review Board has recommended approval of the increase.

"It might be difficult for the taxicab drivers to operate and continue functions" without an increase, said review board Chairman John Dempewolf, who said he did not anticipate much opposition to the proposal.

The increase would hit riders taking short trips the hardest. Currently cabdrivers, who pay for the gas they use, are feeling the biggest pinch of skyrocketing gasoline prices on the short trips.

Unlike taxi drivers in the busy metropolitan areas, who get the majority of their business from people flagging them down, those in Prince William get most of their business through dispatch calls. Often dispatch calls for short trips do not pay off under the current rates for the drivers, most of whom drive their own cars.

"It's not uncommon for a cabdriver to drive 10 miles to pick someone up and take them on a four- or five-mile trip," Cochran said, "Bear in mind that . . . when the meter is on, that's how we earn our money."

Yellow Cab gets about 500 to 600 calls for taxis and Prince William Cab about 350 calls every 24 hours.

Mark Asa, who owns Prince William Cab, said, "Drivers are making less. They're putting more in the gas tank and paying more to keep on the road . . . . The cabdrivers themselves are the ones that are suffering the most."

Cochran said that with trips frequently running three to four miles, the increases would raise most fares 15 to 20 percent. "The farther the rider goes, the less the percentage {increase} is going to be," Cochran said.

Under the proposed increases, the fare for a two-mile trip would jump almost 25 percent from $3.25 to $4.05. Fares for a four-mile trip would rise about 19 percent from $5.65 to $6.75. The cost of a 20-mile trip would increase about 14 percent from $24.85 to $28.35.

Asa said his passengers have been anticipating the fare increases.

"We have our customers asking us when our rates are going up," Asa said.