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Arlington taxi industry gets a lifeline from county leaders

Eliminating certificate fees could help keep fleets operating in troubled times

[Update, 4/20/24:]

County Board members adopted the proposal to eliminate the certificate fees for taxis at their meeting today.

[Original coverage, 4/15/24:]

Arlington County Board members in May could provide some additional financial help to the county’s taxi industry, which while remaining vital for some travelers has seen troubled times owing to changing transportation methods.

The proposal headed to the County Board would drop the $150-per-cab annual certificate fee imposed on the 441 taxis authorized to operate in Arlington.

Taxi operators since 2021 already have received help along similar lines, with the fee being waived for all wheelchair-accessible taxis and the first 50 standard taxis operated by any individual company. Currently only two operators in Arlington – Red Top and Blue Top – exceed that number.

County officials estimate that cab ridership in Arlington dropped more than 50 percent between 2019 and 2023, due to the rise of ride-share services like Uber and Lyft, the impacts of the pandemic and other factors. But taxi service remains important to a sector of the community.

“If relief is not provided, taxicab companies may continue to reduce the number of vehicles, including accessible vehicles, available to the public,” wrote Angie de la Barrera, a staffer focused on taxi regulation in the Department of Environmental Services, in a memo to County Board members.

The county government “is committed to supporting local taxicab companies and values the services the industry provides to the community,” she wrote.

Both county staff and the Transportation Commission are supporting elimination of the fee, which in 2020 brought in about $71,000 to government coffers. In addition to Red Top and Blue Top, firms authorized to serve Arlington include Arlington Yellow Cab, Friendly Cab, Hess Cab and Crown Cab