Taxi fares for on-base cabs in Area III will be hiked beginning April 1 to match a similar increase in prices enacted earlier this month in other areas of South Korea, officials said Wednesday.

The initial charge for taxis will jump from $1.50 to $1.80 and the “per unit” charge - based on a combination of distance and time - will increase from 25 cents to 30 cents, said Air Force Master Sgt. Donovan Potter, an Army and Air Force Exchange Service spokesman in Okinawa.

The change also will affect Osan and Kunsan air bases, officials said.

As with the previously announced increase, the price hikes are the result of a combination of factors including the rising cost of driving the cabs and retaining drivers, rising fuel prices (also set by AAFES) and the South Korean won’s rising value against the U.S. dollar.

One year ago, 1,179 won equaled a dollar, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve. Now, the rates hover around 1,000 won. In March 2004, gas prices at on-base stations in South Korea were $1.62 per gallon for regular unleaded fuel. This month, the price was set at $1.95 per gallon.

Taxi service in what the U.S. Army calls Area III — the area in central South Korea near Camp Humphreys and other installations — is run by a different contractor than in areas near Seoul, AAFES officials said. But the contract company made a price hike request after other cab companies requested one.

“For the past several months, all AAFES taxi companies have attempted to stabilize and hold the line on the hopes that the dollar would grow stronger. However, during the last few months, the AAFES taxi company that provides service to Osan, Humphreys and Kunsan has operated at a loss due to the heavy decline of the U.S. dollar,” Lee Holloway, general manager of AAFES Korea Central, said in a news release.

Cab fares off base may be on the rise as well. Seoul city officials are considering raising taxi fares by 19.5 percent. That would increase the starting fare in “general” taxis, normally silver or white cabs, from 1,600 won to 2,000 won (about $1.98).

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