The cost of a taxi ride went up temporarily in Prince William County this week after the Board of County Supervisors responded to rising gas prices.
The board voted unanimously to impose a 75-cent surcharge per trip; it took effect yesterday. The board also voted to raise the cost of a ride from $1.50 to $1.80 per mile for 60 days.
The emergency votes were held at a board meeting Tuesday after the county heard the pleas of Manassas Cab and Yellow Cab of Prince William, the county's only licensed taxi companies.
Although the two companies are pushing for a permanent fare of $1.65 per mile, they approached the county for immediate relief in response to a gas shortage caused by Hurricane Katrina that has spiked fuel prices.
"I can't get drivers to pick people up," said Jim Bryant, owner of Manassas Cab.
The two cab companies have a combined fleet of about 140 vehicles that typically chauffeur riders paying an average of $8 per trip, said Tammy Beard, owner of Yellow Cab of Prince William. She said most people take cabs for short trips to doctor's appointments, work and school.
Unlike other counties that have many taxi customers, Bryant said, Prince William often has "deadheads": Riders take long trips, such as to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and the cabs return empty. "Then you come all the way back for nothing," he said. "That's what's killing the gas and killing the drivers."
The board's move follows other jurisdictions across the region, such as Arlington County and the District, that approved temporary or permanent increases before Hurricane Katrina.
In other business, the board also was briefed on the county's response to Hurricane Katrina. Kevin T. McGhee, assistant chief of the Department of Fire and Rescue, said that 55 hurricane evacuees have relocated to Prince William County and that at least eight children have enrolled in the public school system.
He said the county has joined with other Northern Virginia communities to apply to help manage New Orleans local government for 14 days. A group of leaders, including County Executive Craig S. Gerhart, would travel and help run the city if picked from applicants across the country, he said.
County employees are also being asked to donate money to the American Red Cross, McGhee said.
In addition, the board approved a public hearing for the county's offer to settle a lawsuit from a couple who want to build a luxury home on three acres in Occoquan that was designated as a park nearly 30 years ago.
Robert and Janet Wilcox sued this year, claiming that the county confiscated their land on Foxhall Drive in the Woodmont Estates subdivision and rendered them incapable of using their property.
The settlement would allow the Wilcoxes, who bought the lot for $50,000 in 1996, to build a 3,000-square-foot, single-family house on the property. In turn, the Wilcoxes would leave almost an acre for a park area and would give the county nearly $15,000 in proffers, or fees to be used for fire and rescue, schools and other county services.