Two passengers of a Red Top taxi cab were injured in a three-vehicle collision today.
The crash happened around noon in the southbound lanes of George Mason Drive, in front of the Army National Guard Readiness Center. Initial reports suggest an Arlington County work truck and the Red Top Cab sedan were stopped in the right-hand lane when the cab was rear-ended by an Advanced Towing truck. The cab was sandwiched between the other two vehicles, causing front- and rear-end damage.
An Arlington couple in their 60s were in the backseat of the cab at the time of the crash, according to Tanvir Ahmed, their son. Ahmed said his mother, who was returning home from cancer treatment at Virginia Hospital Center, suffered a head injury and was bleeding when she was taken via ambulance back to the hospital. His father suffered minor injuries, he said.
All three drivers remained on scene following the wreck. Only minor damage was visible on the rear bumper of the county truck. The tow truck had moderate front-end damage.
So far, there’s no official word from police regarding the cause of the crash. No other injuries were reported.
Almost 100 taxi drivers crowded into the office of the Arlington County Board Friday morning, demanding a meeting with Board Chairman Walter Tejada to protest working conditions in Arlington.
The crowd of drivers were many of the same who protested in Clarendon last month against the same issue: the ordinance that regulates taxi operating permits, which the protesting drivers feel is written in the interest of the taxi companies’ owners, not the drivers.
The Arlington United Taxi Operators and Tenants and Workers United again organized the protest. Tejada was not in the office Friday morning, but the drivers were able to get a brief audience with Board member Mary Hynes and speak to Tejada on speakerphone, setting up a meeting for Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 3:00 p.m.
The demonstration was organized quickly after Yellow Cab Co. driver Abdellah Ouazzani said he was fired on Wednesday for speaking out against the cab companies. Ouazzani claims that a Yellow Cab manager struck him on the shoulder several times while demanding that he either sell back his taxi to the company or be fired.
“It went from peaceful protests and turned violent,” Ouazzani said. He filed a complaint with the police, who are investigating the incident, but Ouazzani did not have any bruises as a result of the alleged confrontation, we’re told. An official with Red Top Cab, which owns Yellow Cab Co., could not be reached for comment.
Acting Deputy County Manager Jay Farr asked the drivers to leave the office and move the protest to the County Board room, and then called the police. The drivers refused to relocate, but police remained next door in the County Manager’s office, and did not engage with the protesters.
“We’re not trying to have a confrontation,” Farr said. “We want to give them a chance to protest, but we have to conduct government business.”
Dozens of taxi drivers converged on Clarendon this afternoon, deliberately disrupting traffic to protest what they claim are poor working conditions in Arlington.
The cab drivers drove slowly around the Clarendon Metro station in protest of their employers and Arlington County. Organized by the cab drivers union Arlington United Taxi Operators, they’re lobbying for a public hearing before the County Board.
The drivers and the union want to change the ordinance that regulates taxi operating permits, which the protesting drivers feel is written in the interest of the taxi companies’ owners, not the drivers.
“The companies basically treat us like slaves,” said Abdellah Ouazzani, a cab driver who declined to state which company he drives for out of fear of losing his job. “They abuse us and they can fire us any time they want.”
In recent years, Red Top Cab and Yellow Cab Company, owned by the same parent company, have raised the dues drivers pay from $145 to $175 to $205 a week, Red Top Cab Vice President Charlie King confirmed. The most recent increase, King said, was coupled with a reduction in credit card fees drivers pay when customers charge their rides, estimated at $30 a week.
Drivers say the steeper fees cut into the pay they end up taking home at the end of the week, leaving “poverty-level earnings,” but companies argue that it’s fair given that the fees often cover the cost of the cabs themselves and the dispatch services that connects drivers with customers.
“Yellow Cab was operating at a loss at $145 a week,” King said. As for the perceived unfair treatment of its drivers, King said, “that’s clearly not the case. We don’t have a record of needlessly terminating cab drivers. We have a great deal of respect for our drivers.”
The Arlington County Board reviews the taxicab ordinance every two years, and when the board took up the issue last year, the taxi union demonstrated many of the same concerns and accused the County Board of racism.
The union wants the county to distribute permits to individual drivers, while the code states the nearly 800 permits in circulation are to be allocated to companies. Red Top Cab and Yellow Cab Co. combine to hold 455 operating permits, King said. Blue Top Cab holds about 170.
The union, along with Tenants and Workers United and Virginia New Majority, a progressive advocacy group, are planning future “disruptions” in other parts of Arlington, including in Courthouse, Pentagon City and Shirlington.
“We want to disrupt other areas so they can be made aware,” said Deshundra Jefferson, spokeswoman for Virginia New Majority, said. “Taxicabs are like sweatshops on wheels, and people don’t even know that the drivers are relying on Medicaid and food stamps.”
Video courtesy Virginia New Majority
Many police departments and taxi companies are still trying to find a suitable replacement for the venerable but discontinued Ford Crown Victoria , but Arlington’s Red Top Cab already chosen its Crown Vic successor: the 2013 Ford Fusion.
Far from being a generic, workhorse fleet vehicle, the 2013 Fusion is actually a stylish car that’s setting sales records. Red Top, which has 58 older Fusion models in its fleet, says the newly-redesigned Fusion (starting MSRP: $21,900) is ideal for taxi use.
“Our 2013 Ford Fusions use aerodynamic styling and advanced engineering to provide exceptional gas mileage and a reduced carbon footprint without sacrificing comfort or safety,” the company said in its March newsletter. “Comfortable seating for five, a surprising commodious trunk, with rear seats that can fold down to accommodate items like skis, make for a very versatile taxicab.”
Red Top marketing director Von Pelot says the company has 20 new Fusions in its fleet of 350 cabs, and plans to add 30 more this year.
“We expect the Fusion to be our primary replacement vehicle for the Red Top fleet at this time,” Pelot said. He said that familiarity with Ford, an economical price, and safety were also factors when choosing a new fleet vehicle.
“The design of the 2013 also virtually eliminates ‘blind spots’ with windows strategically placed to provide almost 360 degrees of visibility,” he said. “Also, the 2013 Ford Fusion earned the highest five-star safety rating in federal crash tests, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”
The car has been well-received by both taxi passengers and drivers.
“As a taxicab company, we have two sets of customers, our drivers — our ‘front seat customers’ — and our passengers,” he said. “We are receiving very positive reviews from the drivers who love the handling, lack of blind spots, fuel economy and really cool look of the 2013 Fusion. Our passengers like the comfort, and trunk size (those who use us for trips to the airport or shopping).”
Pelot said he’s not aware of any other local cab companies that are using the 2013 Fusion. Ford has not responded to a request for comment.
Human Rights Award Winners Announced — The Arlington Human Rights Commission has announced the winners for the 2012 James B. Hunter Human Rights Award. Two community groups — Wakefield High School’s Project Upstanders and Washington-Lee High School’s Best Buddies Club — received the honor, along with two individuals — recent Wakefield graduate Sara Heisey and Santa Fe Cafe owner John “Kip” Laramie. Awards will be presented at a ceremony on December 13. [Arlington County]
Red Top Toys for Tots Drive — From now through Monday, December 17, all Red Top Cabs will serve as Toys for Tots collection sites. Customers can bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate when riding in one of the cabs. Red Top will deliver the toys to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation for distribution to local needy children. Arlington Yellow Cab is also participating in the program.
Board Approves Year-Round Westover Farmers’ Market — At its meeting yesterday (November 27), the County Board unanimously approved a new schedule and location for the Westover Farmers’ Market. The existing summer market will now run from May through November and a winter market will run from December through April, essentially making it a year-round market. The winter market will be smaller than the summer version. As far as location, the market will now be located mostly on the Reed School property.
(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Arlington residents can expect to see an unusual car on the streets through the holiday season, reminding of the dangers of drunk driving.
The Arlington County Police Department partnered with Red Top Cab and the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) in the unveiling of a vehicle that’s half police car and half taxicab. The vehicle has been nicknamed the “Chooser Cruiser” because it reminds people that they have choices for getting home after drinking — in the back of a taxi or in the back of a police car.
“We are very excited to present yet another reminder of the choice people have before taking to the roads if alcohol is part of their celebration,” said Red Top Cab Chief Operating Officer Wayne Miller.
As part of the public/private initiative, Red Top donated the former taxi, which has more than 396,000 miles on it, and paid for its makeover. ACPD donated the lights on top which had previously been on a former police cruiser, and will be responsible for positioning the vehicle throughout the county. Both organizations emphasize that due to the donations, the vehicle was of practically no cost to taxpayers.
The car’s unveiling (which was delayed due to Superstorm Sandy) comes just in time for the holiday season. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 25 percent of all drunk driving deaths in the U.S. occur in December. The holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Eve see a 40 percent and 60 percent spike in alcohol related traffic deaths, respectively.
“The holiday season is a particularly dangerous time,” said ACPD Chief M. Douglas Scott. “We’re doing everything we can to both identify and apprehend impaired drivers.”
Chief Scott noted that penalties for first time drunk driving offenders include up to a $2,500 fine, a jail term of up to one year and/or the suspension of the offender’s drivers license for up to one year.
Neal Nichols, President of Red Top Cab, handed over the vehicle’s keys to Chief Scott at the unveiling ceremony.
“This retired Red Top Cab spent some of its time already taking people home who had overindulged,” Nichols said. “Let’s hope that this Chooser Cruiser will cause people to think twice and will save lives.”
Arlington is the first area in the D.C. metro to take part in this pilot program. The Chooser Cruiser will be stationed at various points around the county through the new year. It will be used in conjunction with regularly scheduled sobriety checkpoints.
“Hopefully it will change behavior. Even if it changes the behavior of one individual, it can be deemed a success,” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “Drunk driving is one of the rare public health issues that is 100% preventable.”
On the front of the car are all the badges for the D.C. metro area’s supporting law enforcement agencies. The back features the number to call for a free lift from SoberRide, a service that has provided nearly 56,000 free rides since 1993.
Starting on December 14 and running through January 1, local residents age 21 and older can call SoberRide for a free trip home, up to a $30 fare. Between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., residents can call 1-800-200-TAXI (8294), and AT&T customers can text #WRAP. One of these methods must be used to get the free ride, because calling individual cab companies directly will result in normal cab fares. More information about the program is available online.
Update on 10/29/12 — The press event has been postponed until after Election Day (Nov. 6) due to Hurricane Sandy.
Arlington County Police, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) and Red Top Cab are preparing to reveal a secret weapon in the fight against drunk driving.
The weapon: a Ford Crown Victoria that’s half ACPD police car and half taxi. The vehicle — pictured here on the county property yard several weeks ago, in an unfinished state — will be parked strategically throughout the county and used to remind party-goers of two options for getting back home after a night of drinking: in the back of a taxi or, if they try to drive drunk, in the back of a police car.
The vehicle, which is still being retrofitted and decorated, will be officially unveiled just
before noon outside Arlington police headquarters on Wednesday (Halloween). The unveiling will coincide with WRAP’s SoberRide program, which will offer anyone 21 and over in the greater D.C. area a free taxi ride home from 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 31 to 6:00 a.m. the next day. The SoberRide phone number is 1-800-200-TAXI.
SoberRide operates on high-risk holidays: Halloween, New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day and Independence Day. Halloween is a particularly dangerous time to drive: 40 percent of all U.S. traffic deaths during Halloween are caused by drunk drivers, according to WRAP.
While the Halloween holiday isn’t until Wednesday, the anti-drunk driving message also applies this weekend, which is prime time for Halloween parties and bar crawls.
A lot of people celebrate the holiday season with alcohol, which can make the roads dangerous. To keep the streets a little safer from potentially impaired drivers, SoberRide is offering free taxi rides home.
From now through January 1, riders in Arlington and the surrounding areas can receive a free cab ride home, up to a $30 fare. The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WARP) teamed up with several sponsors to offer the service. Multiple taxi companies, including Arlington’s Red Top Cab, are participating in the initiative.
Riders must be at least 21 years old and follow a few guidelines, including not reserving a taxi in advance. The service runs from 10:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m.
All calls must go to 1-800-200-TAXI. Do not call your local cab company directly to request SoberRide services. There is more information about the program on the WRAP website.
SoberRide Active for Halloween — The regional SoberRide program will be offered Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Halloween partiers can call 1-800-200-TAXI (8294) between 10:00 p.m. on Saturday and 6:00 a.m. on Sunday to get a free, safe ride home — up to a $30 fare — in Arlington, Alexandria, D.C., Fairfax and most other surrounding jurisdictions. Arlington’s Red Top Cab is not only one of the participating cab companies, but one of the main sponsors of the program. [Washington Regional Alcohol Program]
Candidate Forum on Sunday — The League of Women Voters of Arlington will be sponsoring a candidate forum on Sunday. From 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., the local candidates for state Senator, state Delegate and County Board will discuss their stances on the issues. The forum is being held at the Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street). [League of Women Voters]
Goblins, Ghouls and Politicians in Westover — On Saturday afternoon, the Westover neighborhood will host its own version of a candidates forum. But instead of speeches and debate, the candidates are instead invited to hang out at the Westover beer garden (5863 N. Washington Blvd) and meet and greet votes. The candidate event will take place between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m., and will be followed by the annual Westover Halloween Parade. [TLHCA Blog]
Community Yard Sale This Weekend — The West Village of Shirlington condo complex (4167 S. Four Mile Run) is holding a community yard sale on Saturday, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
This summer Joel Orbina Laguidao, the Red Top Cab driver who keeps a portable karaoke machine in his taxi, gained regional notoriety thanks to local media coverage.
Now, the ‘Karaoke Cab’ has gone national, thanks to a feature story on this morning’s Today Show.
As part of the five-minute segment, Today Show co-host Savannah Guthrie took a musical ride around Arlington in the Karaoke Cab with Joel. As Arlington landmarks like Whitlow’s passed by in the background, Guthrie was joined in the cab by a number of random taxi passengers and by one not-so-random Arlington resident: NBC News White House Correspondent Chuck Todd.
Guthrie called the cab “a new innovative way of getting around the D.C. area” that “gives a whole new meaning to ‘traffic jam.’”
The segment was filmed on Friday, Sept. 16, with the cooperation of Clarendon-based Red Top Cab.
Sun Sets on Arlington County Fair — The rides, food stands, and carnival games that made up the Arlington County Fair are all packing up and heading out. Last night was the fair’s last night. In case you missed it, Patch has published 21 separate articles on the fair since Thursday.
Pakistan Kidnapping’s Arlington Connection — An American development expert kidnapped in Pakistan on Saturday was the Pakistan director of J.E. Austin Associates, a consultancy based in Courthouse. [New York Times]
Arlington Stingy on Diplomatic Gifts — Arlington only gives gifts to visiting diplomatic delegations “on rare occasion,” and when it does, the value of those gifts is in the “tens of dollars, not hundreds of dollars.” Arlington’s policy on diplomatic gifts contrasts with that of the District; D.C. officials are “re-gifting” a set of donated plates to foreign dignitaries. [Washington Post]
Arlington Art Attacker Arrested Again — Susan Burns, the 53-year-old Arlington woman accused of attacking a Gauguin painting at the National Gallery of Art back in April, has been arrested again. This time, Burns is charged with slamming a Matisse against a wall at the same museum. [MyFoxDC]
Have you ever hopped in a Red Top Cab at night and realized that it wasn’t just a taxi, it was a karaoke parlor on wheels?
If so, you’ve probably met Joel Orbina Laguidao, the subject of an amusing Washington Post Style section feature this week.
A former truck driver, Laguidao started driving a cab shortly after moving to Virginia from the Philippines. After becoming bored with just driving all the time, he installed a karaoke machine.
The Post recently rode shotgun as Laguidao hauled bar-goers from Clarendon back to their apartments in Ballston, Pentagon City and elsewhere. Intrepid reporter Dan Zak bore witness to the looks of disbelief on the faces of first-time riders, and to the loud, terrible drunken singing that serenades Laguidao during his workday (that is, when Laguidao is not on the mic himself).