- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

The D.C. Taxicab Commission yesterday approved an emergency $1 surcharge to pay for higher gasoline costs, starting March 21.
The price of a gallon of regular, unleaded gas has risen 32 cents nationwide to $1.68 since December because of increased tensions with Iraq, the Venezuelan oil strike and cold weather.
The federal government said yesterday that the price of gas is headed for a record $1.76 per gallon next month, even without a war.
Cabs will post stickers alerting riders of the surcharge, which will be in effect for 120 days.
This week, stations around the District averaged $1.68 for a gallon of regular gas, AAA said. The price is 10 cents higher than the price in December 2000 when the commission last enacted a surcharge of $1. That surcharge ended in April 2001 with the commission approving a permanent, 25-cent fare increase.
Another permanent increase isn't likely but will be examined by the commission, said Kimberly Lewis, attorney adviser for the panel.
"This is mainly to help cabdrivers break even from costs of increased gas prices that have shot up with the possible war," Ms. Lewis said.
In a 4-3 vote, the commission raised the upcoming surcharge from 50 cents, the original proposal, to $1. Lee Williams, commission chairman who voted against the $1 charge, said he was concerned that the higher fare would keep low-income residents from riding.
"This number is just higher than we calculated, and it's going to turn away a lot of business from folks who have tight budgets as it is," Mr. Williams said.
He added that the increase would push more taxi riders to take cheaper transportation such as the Metrorail or bus. Metro has proposed increasing base fare prices by 30 cents to cover mounting operating costs in its 2004 budget.
Theresa Travis, taxicab commissioner who sponsored the $1 fee, argued that the increase was to safeguard against price surges caused by the prospect of war.
"Once this surcharge is started, it's locked in for the four months. We have to make sure it covers increases that are likely to occur in the coming weeks," Mrs. Travis said.
Philip Lebet, a corporate secretary for Diamond Cab Co. and part-time cabdriver, said the surcharge was long overdue.
"They should have put it in effect when gas prices were hitting $1.50," Mr. Lebet said.
Mr. Lebet said he expects an initial decrease in customers but no significant loss. "People have been through these surcharges before. They have to realize that higher gas prices will eventually trickle down and affect them," he said.
Cabs aren't the only businesses trying to defray the cost of higher gas prices. The major airlines said they were reviewing or had begun charging $10 round-trip fuel fees for travelers.

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