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Developer Aims to Slash Parking Offered in Red Top Cab Overhaul

The developer looking to transform the Red Top Cab properties in Clarendon into three mixed-use buildings now hopes to cut back on the parking offered on the properties, prompting some worries from neighbors.

The Shooshan Company is asking the County Board for permission to remove one floor from both of the underground lots planned for the site, a reduction of about 178 parking spaces in all. Work is set to begin soon on the long-delayed development, which will replace Red Top’s headquarters (located where Washington Boulevard meets 13th Street N.) and the lot the company once used for vehicle maintenance at 1200 N. Hudson Street.

The three buildings are set to offer a total of 584 multifamily units, with 1,295 square feet of retail space thrown in as well, yet the Ballston-based developer is looking to cut back on parking as a cost-saving measure. In all, the company is proposing dividing 285 spaces between the two garages, compared to the 463 originally approved when the Board signed off on the project a few years back.

County staff seem more than ready to agree to such a change, noting in a report prepared for the Board that the development still “meets and exceeds” the county’s minimum parking requirements, even after the space reduction. The Board passed a plan last November to allow developers to build less parking along Metro corridors, in order to increase the use of public transit, car-sharing and other, greener transportation options.

Shooshan also plans to offer 20 parking spaces specifically reserved for visitors to the development, “which will mitigate overspill parking on surrounding streets from building visitors,” staff predict.

Even still, the Lyon Village Civic Association has made it clear to the county that it harbors concerns about the parking reduction’s impact on surrounding neighborhoods. While the development itself sits on the edge of Clarendon’s main strip, there are a series of single-family homes along streets like N. Kirkwood Road, N. Johnson Street and N. Jackson Street.

“The civic association representatives expressed concern about the potential for overspill parking as a result of the applicant not providing mitigation, such as additional bike parking, in exchange for the lowered parking ratio,” staff wrote in the report.

Yet transportation planners believe Shooshan has enough bike parking built into its plans already, noting just how close the development will be to the Clarendon Metro station and a variety of bus stops as part of the area’s “robust transportation network.”

Staff fully endorsed all these changes, but the Board will have the final say at its meeting Saturday (Sept. 22). Should it win these remaining approvals, the developer plans to start work on two of the three buildings sometime “in the first quarter of 2019,” staff wrote.

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Red Top Cab Redevelopment in Clarendon Could Soon Move Ahead

Long-delayed plans to transform Red Top Cab’s properties in western Clarendon into three new mixed-use buildings could soon move ahead.

The Arlington County Board is set to consider a series of zoning changes this weekend to let Ballston-based developer The Shooshan Company start re-developing the lots, which sit behind Clarendon’s main strip of bars along Wilson Boulevard.

In all, the developer is hoping to build a total of 584 multifamily units across the three buildings, with 1,295 square feet of retail space included as well. The new development would replace Red Top’s headquarters (located where Washington Boulevard meets 13th Street N.), in addition to the lot the company once used for vehicle maintenance at 1200 N. Hudson Street.

The County Board first approved the project in October 2015. But work hasn’t moved ahead on the project as the developer has tweaked its construction plans, according to a staff report prepared for the Board.

Originally, The Shooshan Company planned to start work on the building along N. Ivy Street first. But that location is also home to a daycare center, NOVA KinderCare, and the developer wanted to let that business stay open, staff wrote. Accordingly, they want to move forward with work on the property at the N. Hudson Street — originally the second phase of the project — to kick things off instead.

In exchange for clearing the way for the development by vacating several properties in the area, Shooshan has agreed to donate four parcels of land along the 1100 block of N. Jackson Street, valued at about $3 million, to the county. That will help the county move ahead with its plans to do away with the reversible lanes on Washington Boulevard and create “a more conventional ‘T’ intersection” with 13th Street N., staff wrote.

The developer also plans to donate land to the county to help it build a park in the area, and will include at least six affordable housing units in the new buildings. Red Top plans to move its headquarters elsewhere in Arlington, if these plans go forward, and has already moved its maintenance operations to Falls Church.

County staff is recommending that the Board approve these changes. The Board is scheduled to take up the matter at its Saturday (May 19) meeting.

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Red Top Cab Joins Riide App

(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) Arlington’s Red Top Cab has joined the taxi booking app Riide in an effort to win customers that might otherwise be wooed by the usability of Uber and Lyft.

The app, available on Apple, Android, and Microsoft phones, seems to work similarly to Uber and Lyft ride booking apps. Passengers can see exactly how far nearby drivers are, within 10 seconds of the cab’s latest location, and are given an estimated fare for trips.

The number of Red Top drivers has gone down by one-third since 2015, according to Kyle Summers, Red Top Cab’s new president. Prior to the disruption caused by the ride booking apps, Red Top had a seemingly never-ending supply of interested drivers said Summers, who joined Red Top Cab this month after leaving Irish transportation software company iCabbi.

“Uber and Lyft, they’ve done great things for the industry,” he said. “They’ve made it so that taxicab companies have to act better. The taxicab companies did this to themselves, to be honest… For us, we need to be able to provide the right tools to get drivers to want to drive for us and for customers to want to use us.”

Both Summers and Von Pelot, the local cab company’s sales and marketing director for the past 26 years, said they hope that the new app would be an improvement over the older, dedicated Red Top app and would help them better compete with Uber and Lyft.

One area where Red Top still has a disadvantage, according to the executives, is in existing regulations that apply to cabs but not to ride hailing companies. While Uber and Lyft drivers can sign up and drive sometimes within 24 hours, Red Top Cab drivers have to sometimes wait three months to begin driving, while undergoing training, background checks and other regulatory hurdles.

The regulatory challenge is something that Summers hopes to tackle to persuade drivers to work for the company.

Riide, which started in the United Kingdom and is expanding to parts of the U.S., aims to allow users to book taxi rides from local companies without needing to change apps.

Pelot said that he believed that the app would be a great benefit for riders because of the “broader base of affiliations” that Red Top can use to fulfill customer’s needs. He used the example of an Arlington rider traveling to Manassas and being able to use the app to schedule both the trip there and back.

The company’s current Red Top Cab app will be discontinued as operations shift to Riide.

Note: An earlier version of the article stated that the number of Red Top drivers had gone down by two-thirds since 2015.

Red Top Cab’s executive misspoke during an interview when asked how many drivers they had lost since 2015. The company has lost one-third since 2015, and have retained two-thirds of their drivers, not vice-versa.

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Red Top Has Moved Cab Maintenance to Falls Church

The long-time Red Top Cab maintenance facility in Clarendon is now idle.

No longer are taxicabs busy coming and going from the facility, which is located along N. Hudson Street, just back from Clarendon’s main strip of bars. The facility’s parking lot, meanwhile, is largely empty.

Red Top spokesman Von Pelot said the company has moved maintenance to Falls Church as a cost-cutting measure.

“Half of the offices at Hudson Street were unused and we had additional capacity for maintenance at our shop in Falls Church, where painting and body repairs have always been done,” Pelot tells ARLnow.com. “It was not economical to carry the operating expenses of occupying a building we don’t really need.”

As recently as 2012 Red Top was seeking new taxi licenses from the county in an effort to expand its fleet. Pelot acknowledged that app-based ride services like Uber and Lyft have significantly curtailed its business.

“With the unfettered competition from unregulated cab substitute companies, we decided to cost costs by relocating staff to other available space,” he said. Red Top’s headquarters, however, is remaining at 3251 Washington Blvd, a block away from the maintenance facility.

A plan to redevelop the Red Top site and adjacent properties into hundreds of units of housing is currently on hold.

Hat tip to Mike K.

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Update: No Work Yet on Red Top Development in Clarendon

A planned redevelopment project in Clarendon has yet to have its groundbreaking.

It was nearly two years ago that the Arlington County Board approved developer Shooshan Company’s plan for a two-phase redevelopment of the Red Top Cab headquarters in Clarendon. Billed as an “ambitious redevelopment,” the project will replace low-slung commercial buildings and surface parking lots with up to 580 housing units and 3,477 square feet of retail space while significantly reshaping the western end of Clarendon.

As of today, it is still business as usual at Red Top Cab, which promised to continue serving Arlington after it eventually moves its headquarters. No construction equipment or other signs of progress are visible.

A Shooshan executive did not respond to a request for comment. A Red Top Cab rep said that “work is still being done on development plans.”

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Red Top Cab Gets a New Look

New Red Top Cab color scheme (photo via Red Top Cab)Arlington’s Red Top Cab, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, has unveiled a new look for its taxicabs.

The new Red Top paint job for its fleet of Ford Fusion cabs is black with a red stripe. It’s the first color scheme change in the company’s history.

“We aimed for a look that is crisp and contemporary,” said Red Top Marketing Director Von Pelot. In a press release, the company said other changes are helping it to compete with its bitter rival: international tech darling Uber.

The changes at Red Top Cab are more than skin deep. Red Top now offers its customers the choice of two apps, both of which have features not found in the larger “rideshare” company’s app. The Red Top Cab apps allow customers to make advance reservations in addition to booking a ride for right away. Red Top says that this feature means that when passengers are ready to go, they don’t have to wait for their ride — their ride is waiting for them.

Red Top said it recently received approval from Arlington County to make the color change.

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Morning Notes

A festive Halloween display outside of a Ballston condominium building

School Bus Cameras Stop Issuing Tickets — The stop arm cameras on Arlington public school buses are no longer sending citations to those who drive by the buses while the stop signs are activated. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring determined that Arlington does not have the legal authority from the General Assembly to issue summonses from school bus cameras by mail. [Washington Post]

Laundry Room Fire at The Shelton — Yesterday around 6 p.m. a dryer in a laundry room at The Shelton apartment building (3125 24th Street S.) in Nauck caught fire. The fire was reportedly controlled by a sprinkler system, but not before filling the third floor of the building with heavy smoke and prompting an evacuation. [Twitter]

Last Weekend for Hudson Trail Outfitters — The local adventure retailer Hudson Trail Outfitters says this will be their last weekend in business. The company, which has a store on Pentagon Row, is offering 50-80 percent off remaining items. [Hudson Trail Outfitters]

Rep. Beyer Wins Spelling Bee — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) won the National Press Club’s annual Politicians vs. Press spelling bee Wednesday night. Beyer won by correctly spelling “apostasy” in round 23. The win keeps the spelling bee title in Virginia, after Sen. Tim Kaine won last year. [Politico]

‘Most Interesting Man in Arlington’ Contest — Don Tito in Clarendon will be hosting its first ever “Most Interesting Man in Arlington” contest Saturday night. Hosted by Mel, of 107.3’s morning show, the contest will judge based on looks and a series of challenges. [Clarendon Nights]

Discover Cherrydale This Weekend — The Cherrydale Business Alliance will hold its second annual “Discover Cherrydale” festival on Sunday afternoon. The event will feature vendor booths, a beer garden, food trucks and various family-friendly activities. [ARLnow Events]

Red Top Given Green Light for Stickers — An Arlington County Board-ordered review of new stickers on the back window of Red Top taxicabs has found no safety hazard. Lou Gatti, a long-time cab driver who is now an industry critic and who was the one who raised concerns, was disappointed by the findings. “There are no checks and balances in this industry, except for me,” Gatti is quoted as saying. “I can’t understand why no one seems to care about the facts and the laws, except me.” [InsideNova]

Blue Line Issues This Morning — A faulty switch near the Pentagon prompted Metro to route Blue Line trains over the Yellow Line bridge for a significant portion of this morning’s rush hour. [Twitter]

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Arlington’s Red Top Cab Trying to One-Up Uber With App Features

Red Top Select appClarendon-based Red Top Cab has been rolling out new features on its smartphone app that the company hopes will set them apart from Uber.

The recently-updated Red Top Select app features allow users to reserve a cab in advance or repeat one of their previous trips with the touch of a button. The company says those features go beyond the functionality of Uber, which has been the scourge of traditional taxi companies and driver everywhere it operates.

“With Uber, riders have to wait until they are ready to ride and hope there is a car available near them and also hope that Uber is not charging surge prices at the time they need their ride. With the Red Top Select app, riders can select the date and time in advance and their car will be waiting for them, instead of them waiting for the car,” said Red Top Cab spokesman Von Pelot.

Riders also have the option to book a ride based on a previous destination, saving some effort, Pelot said.

Like with Uber, Red Top Cab app users can link a credit card and pay for the rides from their phones. The app also allows companies to hook up a corporate account, and riders can decide between getting picked up by a taxi, a Red Select sedan or a luxury car.

Red Top Cabs (File photo)

“Of course, the app also lets riders view available cabs/sedan in their area, select the type of ride they want (Red Top Cab, Red Select sedan or Red Select black car) and track the arrival of their vehicle,” Pelot said in an email.

The focus on technology comes at a time of transition for Red Top, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. The taxi company has sold its long-time Clarendon headquarters, which will eventually be torn down to make way for a new apartment or condo development.

Red Top is planning to stay in Arlington, but is still trying to figure out where exactly it will move to. The company is currently looking for a new location for its headquarters, Pelot said, but he could not go into additional specifics.

Disclosure: Red Top Cab is an ARLnow.com advertiser.

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Major Clarendon Redevelopment Heading to County Board Next Week

The Arlington County Board next Tuesday will consider a major redevelopment of the western end of the Clarendon neighborhood.

Arlington-based developer The Shooshan Company is proposing to build three residential buildings with up to 580 units of housing and 3,477 square feet of retail space. The apartments or condos will be built on what is now mostly parking lots and offices for Red Top Cab, along Washington Blvd and 13th Street N. Two other aging, low-rise commercial buildings are also slated for demolition.

The proposed maximum building height is 110 feet, but the structures are designed to “taper up” away from the single family home neighborhood.

A county staff report for the final proposal has not yet been posted. At a July Site Plan Review Committee meeting, Shooshan proposed only 468 parking spaces for the project, or 0.8 spaces per dwelling unit, explaining that those who live in apartments near transit are “less likely to own automobiles and more likely to utilize alternative modes of transportation.”

Two phases of construction are being proposed. The first will be the building at the corner of Washington Blvd and 13th Street, on the current Red Top Cab communication center property. The second phase, which will be built “dependent upon market conditions,” will raze the Red Top headquarters property along N. Hudson Street.

Shooshan says benefits of the project include an improved Washington Blvd and 13th Street alignment, a new 12th Street N. to break up a large block, stoop entrances along 13th Street to improve street activity, a new Ivy Street pedestrian path and dedication of open space near the Washington and 13th intersection for a future park.

The County Board is scheduled to consider the development at its Tuesday night recessed meeting on Oct. 20.

Red Top Cab has said that it intends to move its headquarters to a new location in Arlington.

“Red Top Cab has served our community for over fifty years and plans to continue to do so,” Red Top Director of Sales and Marketing Von Pelot told ARLnow.com in March. “Over the years we have moved our offices from time to time to update our facilities and accommodate a growing staff. Each time careful planning has enabled us to make these moves without any interruption of service to our customers.”

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Red Top Says They’re Here to Stay

Red Top Cab's surface parking lot on N. Irving Street(Updated at 12:50 p.m.) Red Top Cab may be considering selling its headquarters in Clarendon, but it’s not considering ending its service in Arlington, company officials say.

Red Top has signed a purchase agreement with a developer for its properties on Washington Blvd and N. Hudson Street, the Washington Business Journal reported. While that article said Red Top’s future was “unclear” — the reporter was not able to talk to a Red Top rep before publication — Director of Sales and Marketing Von Pelot says the company’s future is secure, even in the age of Uber.

“I was reminded of the words of Mark Twain when his obituary was prematurely published, ‘Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated,'” Pelot said via email. “Our recent development and introduction of the Red Top Select app which provides our customers with the convenience of booking, tracking, and paying for their ride through their mobile phone, is an example of our continuing commitment to our customers and our community.”

“Red Top Cab has served our community for over fifty years and plans to continue to do so,” Pelot continued. “Over the years we have moved our offices from time to time to update our facilities and accommodate a growing staff. Each time careful planning has enabled us to make these moves without any interruption of service to our customers.”

Red Top moved to its N. Hudson Street location in 1970, after its founding in 1964 by Washington-Lee High School graduate Neal Nichols. Before that it had another office in Clarendon, at 10th Street and N. Highland Street. Red Top’s dispatch center moved to a nearby location at 3251 Washington Blvd in 1994, Pelot recounted.

While a redevelopment deal has been struck, with plans to eventually build 584 apartments on Red Top’s property, Pelot said Red Top is staying put for now.

“No move is imminent,” he said. “Planning is very much in the early stages.”

Pelot declined to discuss where Red Top may move its offices next.

“As is often the case in situations such as this, discussions about relocating our facilities are governed by rules of confidentiality and I can only tell you that we plan to continue to provide service to our Arlington community,” he said.

Disclosure: Red Top Cab is an ARLnow.com advertiser.

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Morning Notes

Residents take advantage of warm weather on a trail near Shirlington 3/11/15

Red Top Development Deal Struck — A potential deal to redevelop Red Top Cab’s property in Clarendon, which we first reported in September, is closer to becoming reality. The Shooshan Company has reportedly entered a purchase agreement with Red Top that would build three residential properties with 584 units on the 3.44 acre site. [Washington Business Journal]

Spring Yard Waste Collection — Arlington County’s spring yard waste collection is set to start Monday and run through April 24. For homeowners, the collection will take place the next business day after their trash collection. [Patch]

APS ‘Traveling Trolley’ Wins Award — Arlington Public Schools has won a national award for its Traveling Trolley summer reading program . The trolley helps close the student achievement gap, providing “an effective way for low income families to gain access to printed text by providing free transportation to their neighborhood branch of the Arlington Public Library,” according to APS. [Arlington Public Schools]

New Va. Breastfeeding Law — A new law signed by Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe allows mothers to legally breastfeed in public, including in privately-owned buildings and businesses. The law will take effect July 1. [WUSA 9 – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]

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Red Top Cab in Clarendon to Redevelop as Apartments?

(Updated at 5:15  p.m.Red Top Cab is exploring redeveloping its two properties in Clarendon as apartment buildings with ground floor retail.

Red Top has occupied those parcels for decades under owner Neal Nichols, who founded the taxi company in 1964. Nichols has partnered with Ballston-based developer The Shooshan Company with the intent of redeveloping its business office and large surface parking lot at 1200 N. Hudson Street and its communications center at 3251 Washington Blvd, ARLnow.com has learned.

According to Tom Miller, a planning supervisor in Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, representatives from the Shooshan Company held “a preliminary meeting” with the county to discuss the plans, but no permits or site plan applications have been submitted yet. The developers also met with the Lyon Village Civic Association to discuss the plans.

The two properties are adjacent to the recently opened Beacon Clarendon apartment project at the corner of Washington and Wilson Blvds.

A Shooshan Company official declined to discuss the plans before they are more concrete. Nichols has owned the 23,000 square foot parcel at 1200 N. Hudson Street since 1969, according to Arlington County property records. Nichols purchased the 13,560 square-foot communications center property in 1993.

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Red Top Cab Launches New Car Service

(Updated at 4:40 p.m.Arlington Red Top Cab launched “Red Select” last week, a car service designed to be less expensive for customers than ordering a Lincoln Town Car, but a different level of service than a taxi.

“We’ve seen, particularly with this economic environment, there’s a space between taxi and sedan,” said Red Top Director of Sales and Marketing Von Pelot, “where we can offer something of a boutique car service.”

The service has been in a pilot phase since June. It’s launching small, with just a handful of cars and drivers trained, vetted and hired specifically to drive the new black Ford Fusions. The service is by reservation only, and costs $3 per ride and an additional $2.50 per mile, with no fees for luggage or extra people.

The service currently has a dozen cars in operation and, for the benefit of the relatively small roster of drivers, currently only operates from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

“We think there is going to be big demand,” said Red Top Chief Operating Officer Jack Weiner. “People really want reliable transportation in a clean, well-maintained car that’s fully insured with a driver that’s fully vetted.”

Weiner said Red Select is another way to stay competitive in the rapidly-changing taxi and car service industry. He said last week’s decision by Gov. Terry McAuliffe that Über and Lyft can legally operate in the state, at least temporarily didn’t change his optimism for the new product.

“The recent events don’t really have a lot of bearing on it,” he said. “People’s expectations are changing and you need more than one type of product.”

Customers can call 703-777-7777 to request a Red Select car, and Red Top is developing a separate app for Red Select customers.

Disclosure: Arlington Red Top Cab is an ARLnow.com advertiser

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Two Injured in Taxi-Tow Truck Crash

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.

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Taxi Drivers Occupy County Board Office in Protest

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.”

Tejada’s aide met several times with Virginia New Majority Executive Director Jon Liss, who was leading the drivers, trying to negotiate a conclusion to the protest. Tejada couldn’t be reached for almost an hour, and when he was able to get on the phone, he spoke just briefly with the protesters.

“I feel bad that I can’t be in the office today,” Tejada said on speakerphone. “Thank you for expressing your feelings. I want to encourage you to stop by the human rights office to file a complaint.”

When asked if he would call Yellow Cab and demand Ouazzani be reinstated to his old position, Tejada said he would discuss it with the county attorney. After Tejada got off the phone, drivers grilled Hynes, asking for changes to the system, particularly a “driver’s bill of rights,” in hopes of ensuring that drivers could not be fired for speaking out.

“It’s upsetting to us if the allegations are true,” Hynes said. As far as getting changes done, however, “the system exists for a reason. The majority of the Board has not been in favor of many of their proposals in the past. In the end, it’s a contractor relationship. Fixing it is not as simple as waving a wand.”

The drivers left the offices shortly before noon, mostly satisfied that they had secured a meeting with Tejada and were able to speak with Hynes in person. Liss said their goal from the meeting — which is likely to include a second Board member, although it’s unclear who that will be — will be to put a public hearing on the agenda and work toward drafting a driver’s bill of rights into the county’s taxi ordinance.

“Right now, they can be canned any time the companies want,” Liss said. “A bill of rights would state they need to go through due process and have cause for firing them.”

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