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.
(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.
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.
Hat tip to Mike K.
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.”
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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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]
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.
“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.
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.”
(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.
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]
(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.
(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
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