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County Staff Members Recommend Adding More Taxis

by Katie Pyzyk | July 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm | 3,536 views | 64 Comments

For the first time in four years, the county is recommending an increase in the number of taxis on Arlington roads.

County staff members have been in an information gathering mode for evaluating how many taxi certificates to issue, a process that takes place every other year. Each taxi driver must have a certificate to legally operate in the county. Currently, there are 765 cabs in Arlington.

The county’s taxi regulation is designed to keep the cab industry competitive, as well as to ensure the satisfaction of residents using the transportation services.

“We regulate Arlington cabs so we know they’re safe and secure,” said the county’s Taxicab Industry Regulator, Angie de la Barrera. “Our ultimate goal is to protect the safety of the traveling public.”

Part of the evaluation involved an online resident survey, which was available from March through June. Information from the more than 1,000 responses was analyzed and included in the 2012 Taxicab Certificate Determination Report.

The county was pleased with the number of responses, according to de la Barrera, and also pleased that most customers expressed overall favorable views toward Arlington’s cabs. Thirty-six percent of respondents said cab service in the county is the same as in neighboring jurisdictions, and 56 percent said it’s better.

County staff suggest increasing the number of certificates by 5 to 7 percent, which would add up to between 40 and 55 cabs. This was based on various factors including a 4.2 percent increase in the county’s population, and an increase of 9.4 percent in the number of taxi trips at Reagan National Airport. There’s also been an increase in the number of tourists staying at Arlington hotels and requesting taxi service.

During the last review, in 2010, the county denied the requests for an additional 75 vehicles. GoGreen Cab, Inc., and EnviroCab, LLC, had both requested certificates, but the county felt the taxi industry was beyond saturation at that time due to a faltering economy. The report cited minimal population growth, lower tourism numbers and a decrease in passengers using cabs at the airport as reasons to deny the certificates.

According to de la Barrera, the last time additional taxi certificates were issued was in 2008, when 99 were added. That’s when EnviroCab first launched in Arlington, and received 50 of the new certificates. The remaining 49 were divided among the county’s other cab companies.

During the research process, county staff encountered numerous complaints about an inadequate number of taxis with handicap accessibility. Customers and businesses in need of one of the 27 wheelchair accessible cabs report regularly waiting from two to four hours if a reservation hadn’t been made in advance. Therefore, county staff members recommend granting certificates to five more accessible cabs, in addition to the suggested 40 to 55 other certificates.

The new report primarily focuses on determining whether or not the county needs more cabs, and why. A second report dealing with less pressing issues, such as customer preferences on hybrid cabs and paying with credit cards, is expected by the end of the summer.

Applications for additional taxi certificates will be accepted from now until September 1, and can be found on the Taxicab Regulation website. The County Board will view presentations from applicants, and is scheduled to vote on certificate approval on November 17. The board does not necessarily have to go along with the recommendations of county staff. For instance, board members could decide to grant fewer certificates than recommended, or none at all.

If approved, drivers should receive new taxi certificates by the new year.

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  • DarkHeart
    • Chris B

      I agree :)

    • CW2

      Don’t need to go to Europe to ride that. The “Bicycle Bar” also exists in Fort Collins, CO. Fun times!

    • dude

      not if we have to share it with the guy on the left – in the thong

  • tea party

    No More Taxis!

  • Ben

    I don’t get the point of limiting the # of taxis other then to artificially inflate prices.

    • Hollywood

      “but the county felt the taxi industry was beyond saturation at that time due to a faltering economy.”

      I guess the county central planners have greater insight into the market better than the taxis that want risk their own capital and labor to serve Arlington customers.

    • bob

      If you don’t have the artificial limit, you get the DC cab industry. I much prefer the newer A-town cabs over any DC hoopty.

      • mark

        And I always thought it was hoopdee. Live and learn.

      • Ben

        Not really. DC would never let a large taxi company like Red Top fly. They seem to discourage large companies and favor the smaller guy – which is great until the successful smaller guy can’t grow and does something else (leaving only the crappy smaller operations).

        Look at the hassle they are giving Uber. DC’s convoluted regulations coupled with blatant favoritism make it hard for larger, legitimate taxi companies to operate.

      • Hollywood

        Thank goodness for government and their “artificial limits” (at least you admit they’re artificial).

        Why not artificially limit the amount of income I can earn or the amount of health care I can consume or the amount of liquor I can buy or the amount of money I can gamble….oh wait, it already is! Phew! I thought for a second I was actually gonna have to think for myself.

    • Mario

      Limiting taxis forces more people to use Metro or ART. The County has a financial interest in both of those, one much more than the other.

      • CW

        I kinda doubt that. The only times I have ever used a taxi in my life are when Metro/ART are not running, or to places that they don’t serve (well, at least not conveniently with respect to ART). I doubt there is much tangible overlap.

        • Mario

          Happens everyday. One example is people waiting for a bus at Ballston to go home. Bus is late, they have no idea when it might get there. They go for a cab. If the cab stand is empty, they wait around for a bus.

          • CW

            Right, but you’re talking about a contingency, not ordinary operation.

            Also, how late does the bus have to be before the average person decides to get a cab? In my personal case, very late. I frankly despise cabs and will avoid them at all costs.

          • Mario

            How late? When you don’t know when the bus will come, you don’t know how late it will be. That’s why people bail on the bus and opt for the cab that is right there waiting for them.

          • Bender

            “When you don’t know when the bus will come”

            More like, when you don’t know IF the bus will come . . .

      • drax

        But transit is usually much cheaper than a taxi. Not likely that they need to limit taxis for that reason.

        Not that it was much of a reason in the first place.

        • Mario

          You’re thinking is wrong. It is not about price competition. It is about availability. Once all the cabs in an area are gone, people are forced to take Metro.

  • nom de guerre

    How about a “Flash Cab”?

  • Ashton Heights

    We need more cabs, but I don’t see why they have to be “enviro”. I just want safe and cheap.

    • drax

      What? Couldn’t hear you, I was coughing from the air pollution.

    • doug

      errrr…you would only be interested in “enviro” transport if you buy into this thing called “science.”

    • WeiQiang

      I would just like cabs with brakes, so they stop for stop signs in my ‘hood.

  • Taxi Rider

    Once again, the County government focuses on the wrong problem. The REGION has plenty of taxis. One of the major problems in Arlington is that it is illegal for a DC cab to pick someone up, so every Friday and Saturday night (especially) scores of empty taxis go back over the bridges. If we want to deal with taxis, the Board needs to surrender authority to a regional body to regulate taxis so we can end the environmentally damaging and foolish inter-jurisdictional taxi restrictions. But this requires leadership and a sense of vision, which the County Board sadly lacks.

    • drax

      You may think the board has bad leadership or sense of vision, but to say it has none is silly. It’s not exactly just sitting on its hands doing nothing.

      • Rendom Contratrian

        You’re wrong, It is.

        • Thes

          This possibility (allowing DC cabs to pick up Arlington passengers at night) was raised more than once in the past, but the Arlington Police kept shooting down the idea, saying that DC cabs were unsafe for Arlingtonians. Lack of vision, I agree, but its another situation where the “expert” County staff keep things from moving forward.

          • Wilbur

            Er, have you been in an DC cab lately. ew! Can DC cabs fought like hell against meters, so that they could continue with their “creative” charging schemes.

            Arl Cabs have always been great.

          • Thes

            Arlington cabs are indeed better than DC cabs, except when they don’t exist. Then a DC cab is better.

          • bob

            DC cabs are, for the most part, unsafe. Most 3rd world countries have nicer taxis.

    • CW

      But most D.C. cabs throw out passengers who want to go to Arlington anyhow, even though it’s illegal…how many D.C. cabs do you estimate go back over the bridges empty?

      Moreover, how many D.C. residents do you estimate go out in Arlington on a Friday/Saturday anyhow who would want to be going back over said bridges? Every last one of those damn snobs that I meet won’t set foot over here!

      • esmith69

        Just yesterday evening we took a DC cab from Union Station to Penrose.

        Before getting into the cab, we asked him how much it was going to cost. He probably thought this meant we would be stingy, but he still took us there without any hassle.

        I ended up giving him a good tip because he was nice,

        • CW

          Low demand period. On a Friday or Saturday he would have thrown you into the street.

          • JamesE

            I take cabs back from DC on Friday and Saturday no problems.

          • CW

            !!!

          • JamesE

            5% of the time I get the jerk that refuses but usually no problem. Maybe I am just charming.

    • cranky crankypants

      Not quite right. It is legal for a DC cab to pick up in Arlington if the destination is in DC. Poachers here don’t suffer penalties like they do in DC.

      Also, Arlington’s rules are looked at Nationally as a good example of hack regulations that balance the needs of customers, drivers, and public safety. There is no reason to hand that over to the bribe-happy side of the river when it is working pretty dang well on our side.

    • Bender

      If you are standing at a bus stop to go to the airport, waiting for a bus that is over 40 minutes late, wondering not “when” it will come, but IF it will come, and a D.C. cab is coming down the road, if you stick your arm out and hail it, there is a good chance he’ll stop and take you to where you’re going by negotiating an agreeable price.

      • pat b

        i use an app on my android phone called DC Metro Transit to tell me when the bus is coming. Real game changer for me.

  • Observer

    Guarantee Zimmerman votes against this. Maybe Mary too. If they can turn Libby, this might not pass.

  • B22201

    Less taxis and more street-cars.

    People need to quit taking cars, and start walking a couple blocks.

  • Brian K

    Maybe they should start getting rid of the drivers who:
    a. can’t drive
    b. won’t provide air con
    c. whose cars are falling apart
    d. are rude
    e. won’t take credit cards
    f. all of the above

    • Hank

      Yeah, the credit card thing is really annoying. It’s odd that you need to ask the cabbie beforehand if he accepts credit cards even though he has the machine provided by the company. I don’t know how they continue to get away with saying they won’t take cards.

      • drax

        If they say they won’t take cards, say you won’t take their taxi.

        • Carol

          And that’s exactly what they want you to do.

      • Chris

        IF a cab driver refuses to take your credit card, tell them you will report them to the company. All Cabs are required to take credit cards. If in a Red Top Cab and they say the credit card machine is broken, the ride is free. People need to start standing up to rouge taxi drivers. The hold no power over you, and if more individuals knew about hack inspectors and the ability to report bad drivers, then more drivers would pull their head out of their ass.

    • Kevin Diffily

      Second that motion.

  • Ryan Young

    The statement that “The county’s taxi regulation is designed to keep the cab industry competitive” is inaccurate. It is actually designed to make the industry less competitive.

    Incumbent cab companies don’t want to deal with pesky competitors, so they convinced the County to regulate them away. That’s also why it’s illegal for DC or Maryland cabs to pick up fares in Virginia.

    It’s quite a dirty game, really.

    • cranky crankypants

      Really. Dirty game in the hack world. Color me shocked!

  • novasteve

    Every time I try to hail a Taxi I feel like that crazy old lady in A Bridge Too far who trys to get a taxi in the middle of a battle. Taxi? Taxi!!!!

  • Mc

    Very hard to hail a cab during the day, and calling a cab for a pickup is uncertain. The point of cabs is on demand transport, which exists only weekend nights in Arlington, or at the airport. It’s not the total number of cabs that matters, it’s when and where they operate that matters.

    • Lee-n-Glebe

      I have found that during the day the Tax Magic app works great. I’ve never had a problem getting a cab within 15 minutes. Usually it’s between 5 and 10 minutes.

      • WeiQiang

        /\ THIS /\

  • Asher

    I have *reserved* taxis twice (the night before) from the main taxi companies in Arlington. I was told the next day that they didn’t have a taxi to retrieve me. !?

    Both times I had to be at union station at a set time, and was freaking out that I would miss my train.

    Then I was referred to EnviroCab. I never have a problem with them, and I ONLY use them.

    Even crazier – When the first company stood me up, I called the other main Arl taxi company to get a cab, and the the same dispatcher answered the phone – on a different number. They are the same company operating under two different names !? and they are both terrible.

    Let’s be sure the taxis are going to show up before we add more!?

    • BlueSkies

      Yes! Hooray for green taxis! I take taxis when I’m going to the airport – needing to be there at a particular time. Trying to get those red and yellow taxis to actually show up – whether reserved the night before or the morning of – is quite a challenge. (And of course if you call after their one-hour advance notice is up but before you’re almost ready to walk out the door, they won’t even take a reservation, which makes it even harder to get them there at a particular time. Bureaucrats.) I’ve been stood up by them a couple times and have had to drive to the airport and park to be sure I’d catch a flight. And I don’t fly often, so that’s saying something.

      EnviroCab has always shown up, on time or early. The drivers are nice, and the cabs don’t have that Eau de Choking Incense. The only time I’ve had trouble was about a month ago, when one morning nobody answered the phone after repeated tries – so I finally had to call the red folks and got to experience the reservation runaround described above. And I’m all for the hybrids and saving the fuel.

      • Ashton Heights
      • Chris

        hahaha Enviro cabs have far less cabs than the Red or Yellow taxis. And I have had just as bad service from them as the others. The point is as long as the county feels the need to regulate the industry, we are going to need more taxis. Each cab service is stocked to the gills on friday and saturday nights, no one cab service is the exception.

      • esmith69

        Agree about Envirocab–we’ve used them several times for a ride to DCA and they’re always on time. We just call them the night before to reserve.

        And yes their vehicles are all newer and so they don’t smell and are very comfortable. Plus they are MUCH more efficient in terms of gas consumption.

    • Help a fellow out here

      Asher, here’s a news flash for you:

      Red Top and Blue Top, the two largest taxi companies in Arlington, are owned by the same corporation which is called, I kid you not: Transportation, Inc. That’s why the same dispatcher answered the phone for you.

      you can look it up.

      • FoodSick

        Blue top is its own thing

        Red and yellow are owned by transportation Inc

  • Rick

    Does the County plan on reforming taxi stands after this? There are litters of empty cabs all over Ballston at night, u-turning without looking on Stafford St, going 8mph in the right lane of Fairfax sniffing for fares, standing around in front of IHOP horsing around… The worst is trying to turn from Wilson to Washington in front of Liberty Tavern and trying to weave around the taxis. I’ve never had a problem getting a taxi in Arlington but tourists/drunks need clearer, safer places to pick up a taxi.

  • info81

    We need more cabs in Ballston from 6-10pm, it can be tough to get one. Also they need more taxi stands on Wilson. Having said that, I am satisfied with the level of service and prices.

  • pat b

    if the county is going to ad 90 new cabs they should insist that they all be “Plug in ” Hybrids or Battery operated vehicles either the Toyota Plug in Prius or the Chevy Volt or Ford Transit conect electric or Nissan Leaf,,,

    this would serve to stimulate demand for these and and serve to add charging infrastructure around the county.

    Arlingtonis ideal for electrics or plug ins and it would ultimately save the cabbies a fortune. The cabbies are very happy with their Hybrids, this could be the next step

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