In 2012 and again in 2014, a number of local firms were vying for new allocations of taxicab certificates from Arlington County. Both established companies and fledgling startups presented their case to county staff and to the County Board, arguing that Arlington needed to add to its taxi fleet.
That is a scene that may never repeat itself again.
A memo sent by County Manager Mark Schwartz earlier this month shows just how precarious of a drop in business Arlington cab companies are experiencing, thanks largely to competition from ride hailing firms Uber and Lyft.
Dispatched cab trips, the predominant measure of taxi activity in the county, plummeted by a third — from 2.6 million to 1.7 million annually — between 2013 and 2015, according to the memo.
The memo suggests that cab activity at Reagan National Airport and local hotels is likely up, due to more passengers and hotel check-ins, but says that there are fewer hail-based trips than dispatched trips among local taxi companies.
Schwartz says there’s currently no way to measure Uber and Lyft activity in Arlington, but concluded that the two companies are not only taking passenger business away but are also making it harder to recruit drivers and collect “stand dues.” Uber and Lyft have operated legally in Virginia since 2014.
From the memo:
Based on information gathered during these exchanges and the data collected as outlined above, staff has concluded that the amount of available taxicabs seems sufficient to support passenger business within Arlington County in general. The Arlington County Police Department has experienced fewer drivers coming to take the required exam than in previous years. For the past two years, the industry has been facing the existence of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) that operate in Arlington under Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles authority. Currently, there are two companies Lyft and Uber. These companies provide service
on demand through a mobile application to individuals.
TNCs are creating a change in market conditions and impacts on the taxicab industry. There is no data available to quantify the number of providers although it is believe[d] to be significant. One thing the industry has brought up numerous times is the shortage of available drivers. This is impacting the industry which has dropped significantly the stand dues in order to attract drivers from other companies. The recent 60 wheelchair certificates that were awarded to Blue Top and All Access in 2014, most of these have not been filled with drivers. Other companies are reporting additional vacancies at the moment. The Arlington County Code provide steps in order to address this issue that will take into consideration during the Allocation Certificate Report due this fall.
As the Washington Post reported today, the last company to receive a large allocation of taxi licenses — All Access Taxi — has only one of its promised fleet of 50 wheelchair-accessible cabs in operation. The company blames problems with driver recruitment.
Von Pelot, marketing director for Red Top Cab, Arlington’s largest cab company, said “there is more at stake for our community than the amount of business we have lost to Uber and Lyft.”
“We provide wheelchair accessible service with the most wheelchair-accessible taxicabs, both in number and as a percentage of our fleet in Northern Virginia,” Pelot told ARLnow.com. “The evidence from San Francisco is that the loss of drivers to Uber has resulted in a reduction of wheelchair accessible service.”
Pelot said that Red Top offers “regulated, predictable and affordable pricing along with a discount program for seniors and persons with disabilities” whereas “Uber offers surge pricing.” He added that Red Top drivers regularly go through fingerprint-driven police background checks and receive special screening and training, a more rigorous process than that offered by Uber.
“As a locally owned and operated company, we contribute in numerous way to the community we serve,” he said. “We are NOT, a huge multinational organization without community ties.”
Taxis, meanwhile, aren’t the only transportation option that have suffered drops in ridership in Arlington over the past couple of years. The memo reveals that annual ridership of both Metrorail and Metrobus in Arlington is down nearly 3 percent from Fiscal Year 2014 to FY 2016. MetroAccess ridership is down 6 percent.
Arlington County has 847 taxi certificates currently approved — almost 4 for every 1,000 residents. The memo concludes with Schwartz’s recommendation that no additional certificates be approved this year.
Based on all the information presented in this report, I recommend that there be no increase in the current number of taxicabs authorized by certificates. If an applicant applies for a certificate, the issuance of which would authorize an increase in the number of taxicabs for such applicant or certificate-holder, and which increase would exceed the number of taxicabs determined by the County Manager, then the application must include relevant facts indicating the reasons that the applicant contends that the market change, industry performance, certificate-holder performance, competition, innovation and other specified factors other than those determined by the County Manager.
Petition for New High School — A petition urging Arlington Public Schools to build a new high school, rather than cramming more students into existing high schools, has nearly 1,000 signatures. The petition states that APS is considering “double shifts, online classes, and mandatory off-site internships” to help with the high school capacity crunch. [Change.org]
Hero Cab Passenger Saves the Day — A passenger in a Barwood taxi jumped into action, grabbed the steering wheel and steered the cab to safety after the driver passed out behind the wheel. The incident happened Thursday morning on the GW Parkway between Chain Bridge and Key Bridge. [WJLA]
No Quidditch in Arlington After All — Those hoping to see some elite-level quidditch playing this weekend will have to hop on their brooms and head to Annandale. Major League Quidditch was unable to conjure up an available field on which to play in Arlington. [ARLnow]
Del. Lopez on Trump — In an op-ed in El Tiempo Latino, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) writes: “It is rare to find bipartisanship in a presidential election year, but Trump’s bigoted comments about a Latino judge are so horrifying that many Republicans are joining Democrats in decrying them.” [El Tiempo Latino]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
VDOT Holds HOT Lane Meeting — Last night VDOT gave the first formal public presentation of its plan to expand the I-395 HOV lanes and convert them to High Occupancy Toll lanes. The meeting was held at Wakefield High School and addressed issues from toll pricing to transit improvements to sound walls. [WTOP, Fox 5]
Bike-on-Bike Crashes Problematic for the Law — A new article asserts that Arlington County Police normally do not file reports for bike-on-bike crashes. “This is a bike accident. Life happens,” an officer reportedly told a victim after one recent incident. Incomplete or nonexistent police reports have frustrated victims and attorneys seeking legal redress — and led to the hiring of private investigators who try to gather evidence and find witnesses. [Washingtonian]
Disability Advocates Protest in Arlington — Disability rights advocates made their frustrations personal yesterday by protesting in front of the Arlington home of Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division. [Disability Scoop]
Proposal: Allow Older Cabs in Arlington — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to consider a policy change that would allow older cabs on the road, among other changes. Currently, cabs entering service may be no older than two years old and then must be retired after reaching seven years old or 350,000 miles. Recognizing advances in vehicle reliability, the new policy would do away with the two year provision and set the maximum age of cabs at 10 years old. [Arlington County]
Free Donuts for Lawyers Today — It’s Be Kind to Lawyers Day and to mark the occasion Sugar Shack Donuts on Columbia Pike is offering a free “house donut” to lawyers today. Sugar Shack is also beginning a promotion that will give select customers free donuts to distribute to their favorite local teachers. “To participate, folks just need to use the hashtag #Treats4Teach to tell us on Facebook or Twitter why they should be picked to deliver donuts to their local school teachers and to which school,” said a press release.
Nice Weather at Last — After this morning’s rain, expect clearing skies and pleasant weather that should stretch into next week. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The Metrorail system will reopen at 5 a.m. Thursday, following today’s shutdown, but riders should expect possible single-tracking and delays as crews continue to fix damaged power cables along the tracks.
That’s the word from officials at a 6 p.m. press conference, in which Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld showed a video (above) of a damaged “jumper cable” found during today’s inspections. With most of the inspections complete, 26 damaged cables have been found — mostly along the Blue, Orange and Silver lines — and 18 have been repaired so far.
Fears of a traffic nightmare today largely did not materialize, as many workers either telecommuted, took buses or rode bikes to work. The morning commute was a bit slower than usual on some routes, while evening rush hour traffic — at least in Arlington — was lighter than usual.
Bus stops were certainly more crowded than usual today, but some of the biggest queues could be found at Reagan National Airport, as travelers waited for taxis.
The taxi line at Reagan. It literally 20 seconds to wish I was anywhere else but DC. pic.twitter.com/6LckRIMxQZ
— Greg Otto (@gregotto) March 16, 2016
So this whole shutting down wmata thing is working out well at DCA. No ubers, but I'm psyched to wait for a cab. pic.twitter.com/3AGOOPs4Q9
— Alexis Levinson (@alexis_levinson) March 16, 2016
After the jump: the press release from WMATA about the inspections and the planned reopening of the system Thursday.
The free rides (up to a $30 fare) will begin at 4 p.m. Thursday and end at 4 a.m. Friday. Those wanting to take advantage of the program have to call the SoberRide hotline at 1-800-200-TAXI (8294) to book their ride.
SoberRide is sponsored by alcohol companies, cab companies and a number of other brands and local organizations, with the goal of reducing drunk driving on local roads.
“During the evening hours immediately following the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, nearly half of all U.S. traffic fatalities involved drunk drivers,” noted Kurt Erickson of the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program.
From a WRAP press release:
Preparing to combat that time of year when, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly half of all U.S. traffic deaths are caused by drunk drivers*, free cab rides will be offered to would-be drunk drivers throughout Arlington County, Virginia on Thursday, March 17, 2016 (St. Patrick’s Day).
Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the 2016 St. Patty’s Day SoberRide® program will be in operation beginning at 4:00 pm on Thursday, March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day) and continue until 4:00 am on Friday, March 18 as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk holiday.
During this 12-hour period, area residents celebrating with alcohol may call the toll-free SoberRide® phone number 1-800-200-TAXI(8294) and be afforded a no-cost (up to a $ 30 fare), safe way home. AT&T wireless customers can dial #WRAP for the same service.
Local taxicab companies throughout the Washington-metropolitan area provide this no-cost service to local residents age 21 and older who otherwise may have attempted to drive home after drinking.
“During the evening hours immediately following the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, nearly half of all U.S. traffic fatalities involved drunk drivers,” said Kurt Gregory Erickson, WRAP’s President.
SoberRide® is offered in the District of Columbia; throughout the Maryland counties of Montgomery and Prince George’s; and throughout the Northern Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, (eastern) Loudoun and Prince William.
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.
Taxi Driver Fights Arlington Cemetery Tickets — A taxi driver is scheduled to appear in federal court later this month to appeal three misdemeanor traffic convictions. U.S. Park Police have been repeatedly ticketing Yahia Fayed for idling outside of Arlington National Cemetery, where he says there’s a steady stream of people looking for a cab. Federal officials say that’s not allowed. So far, no militiamen have threatened to protest federal government tyranny on Fayed’s behalf. [Washington Post]
Scary CO Incident at Gym Near Fairlington — Arlington County firefighters and medics were among those who responded to the XSport Fitness gym on King Street, across from Fairlington, on Saturday for a carbon monoxide incident. Witnesses said people all of a sudden started collapsing on their treadmills. Seven were hospitalized. A malfunctioning pool heater was found to be the cause. [Fox 5 DC]
Arlington Ready to Enforce Snow Removal Ordinance — Should snow ever fall this winter, Arlington County is ready to enforce its five-year-old snow removal ordinance. Last season, 25 citations were issued for snow removal violations. [InsideNova]
Lidl HQ Close to Opening — The new U.S. headquarters for German grocery giant Lidl is getting ready to open near Potomac Yard. The company also just purchased land near Richmond for one of its first stores in Virginia. [Virginia Business]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Guns Stolen from Nova Firearms in McLean — A burglary has occurred at Nova Firearms, the gun store that wanted to open a location in Cherrydale before residents pressured the store and the landlord to scuttle those plans. Two handguns were stolen from Nova Firearms’ McLean store just after midnight this past Friday. Police are seeking tips in the case. [Fairfax County Police Department]
Taxicab Fares Raised in Arlington — A taxi ride in Arlington will now cost an extra 25 cents per ride and an extra six cents per mile. The County Board on Saturday unanimously approved new taxi rates that also include a $25 cleaning fee for those who “dirty or foul a cab enough that the cab must be removed from service.” [Arlington County, WJLA]
Locals Make ’50 On Fire’ List — A number of Arlington-based companies and individuals have been named to this year’s DC Inno “50 on Fire” list. Local honorees include Vornado/Charles E. Smith honcho Mitchell Schear, Crystal City incubator Eastern Foundry, newly-IPOed Evolent Health in Ballston, Ballston-based tech firm Distil Networks and Rosslyn-based advertising agency LMO Advertising. [DC Inno]
Nauck Town Square Design Meeting — A community discussion will be held at Drew Model School to help officials arrive at a final plan and design for its Nauck Town Square project. The meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. tonight (Monday). [Arlington County]
Review of Oz in Clarendon — Oz restaurant in Clarendon, which opened in September, continues to receive so-so reviews from the critics. The latest review suggests that Oz suffers from the inherent blandness of Australian cuisine, which it attempts to recreate faithfully. Oz may benefit, however, from its co-owner’s casting on the Real Housewives of Potomac. [Washington Post]
Arlington Fire Captain Retires After 35 Years — Arlington County Fire Department Captain Robert Patterson has retired after 35 years on the job. [WJLA]
The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) is offering its Holiday SoberRide program starting this Friday, Dec. 11 through New Year’s Day. Every evening on these days, free cab rides will be available for fares up to $30 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Residents who have been drinking and need a safe ride home can get their free ride by calling 1-800-200-TAXI toll-free. Those who have AT&T cellular service can also dial #WRAP to get the service.
“Last December, nearly 1,200 Greater Washington residents did the right thing and availed themselves of this lifesaving service rather than possibly driving home impaired,” said WRAP President Kurt Gregory Erickson in a statement. “For SoberRide’s hours of operation during just last New Year’s Eve, such ridership (420) translated into the removal of a would-be drunk driver from our shared roadways every 68 seconds.”
This year’s participating cab companies include Red Top Cab of Arlington.
The Arlington County Board is considering amendments to the County Code’s section on taxicabs that would raise taxi fares and surcharges.
The proposed amendments include raising the initial charge on all taxi trips from $2.75 to $3 and raising the mileage and waiting charge from $0.35 to $0.36 for every one-sixth of a mile or 56 seconds.
The amendments also include a new $25 cleaning fee, “to be imposed when passengers dirty or foul a cab such that it needs to be removed from service for cleaning.”
One surcharge will be removed under the proposed changes: a special $2 fee for handling footlockers — small trunks often used by members of the military. The report from county staff notes that no other local jurisdiction charges such a fee.
At its meeting this coming Saturday, the Board could authorize advertisement of these changes, which would then be discussed and voted upon next month.
That meeting is scheduled for Dec. 12. If the Board votes to approve the amendments, they are expected to be placed in effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
About this time last year, the Board approved licenses for 60 wheelchair-accessible taxis, bringing the total number of licensed taxis in the county to 847.
Saturday’s meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the Board Room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd. This month’s regular meeting was also extended to a third day due to the large number of agenda items, with recessed meetings scheduled for next Tuesday and Thursday.
The free rides will be offered from 10 p.m. on Saturday to 4 a.m. on Sunday. In order to get a free ride, revelers have to book their cab by calling 1-800-200-TAXI.
In its press release (below), WRAP noted that nearly half of all Halloween traffic deaths in the U.S. are caused by drunk drivers.
As a means of making the Washington-metropolitan area’s roadways a little less frightening this Halloween, free cab rides will be offered to would-be drunk drivers throughout Arlington County, Virginia on the evening of Saturday, October 31st.
Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the Halloween SoberRide® program will be in operation at 10:00 pm on Saturday, October 31st (Halloween) and operate until 4:00 am on Sunday, November 1st, as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk, holiday period.
During this six-hour period, area residents ages 21 and older celebrating with alcohol may call the toll-free SoberRide® phone number 1-800-200-TAXI and be afforded a no-cost (up to a $30 fare), safe way home. AT&T wireless customers can dial #WRAP for the same service.
Local taxicab companies throughout the Washington-metropolitan area provide this no-cost service to local residents age 21 and older who otherwise may attempt to drive home after drinking.
SoberRide® is offered in the: District of Columbia; throughout the Maryland counties of Montgomery and Prince George’s; and throughout the Northern Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, (eastern) Loudoun and Prince William.
“The scary fact is that nearly half (43%*) of all U.S. traffic deaths occurring during Halloween are caused by drunk drivers,”said Kurt Gregory Erickson, WRAP’s President.
Sponsors of this year’s Halloween SoberRide® offering include: AAA Mid-Atlantic, Anheuser-Busch, Constellation Brands, Diageo, District of Columbia Association of Beverage Alcohol Wholesalers, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, Giant Food, MillerCoors, Red Top Cab of Arlington, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, Volkswagen Group of America and the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association.
Participating taxicab companies include: Alexandria Yellow Cab; Barwood; Fairfax Yellow Cab; Loudoun Yellow Cab; Northern Virginia Checker Cab; Red Top Cab; Silver Cab of Prince George’s County; Yellow Cab of D.C.; and Yellow Cab of Prince William County.
Last Halloween’s (2014) SoberRide® program provided nearly 300 (278) free cab rides home to would-be drunk drivers in the Washington-metropolitan area.
Since 1993, WRAP’s SoberRide® program has provided 62,773 free cab rides home to would-be drunk drivers in the Greater Washington area.
Founded in 1982, the nonprofit [501(c)(3)] Washington Regional Alcohol Program (www.wrap.org) is an award-winning public-private partnership working to prevent drunk driving and underage drinking in the Washington-metropolitan area. Through public education, innovative health education programs and advocacy, WRAP is credited with keeping the metro-Washington area’s alcohol-related traffic deaths consistently lower than the national average.
More information about WRAP’s SoberRide® initiative can be found at www.soberride.com.
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.
A D.C. taxi flipped on its roof at Reagan National Airport Thursday evening.
It’s unclear how the accident happened nor whether anyone was injured. Fire department and airports authority spokespersons were not immediately available for comment.
Photographer Erinn Shirley said she encountered the scene while traveling on the Mount Vernon Trail around 8:30 p.m. Her photos show a tree knocked over by the crash, a tire tread under a “Welcome to Virginia” sign and one or two luggage-toting travelers standing near the wreck.
School Board Says No to Wilson School Historic Status — Any hope preservationists had of salvaging pieces of Rosslyn’s Wilson School are likely dashed. The Arlington School Board voted last night, during an abbreviated meeting, to reject the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board’s proposal to give the Wilson School, built in 1910 at 1601 Wilson Blvd, historic protections. It has been renovated in the interim, and school officials contend the renovation diminishes its historic value. [InsideNova]
Cops Looking for Crime-Fighting Cabbie — Arlington police are trying to find a cab driver who helped them make an arrest in Pentagon City Tuesday night. An officer was trying to chase down a man suspected of stealing from a store in Pentagon City mall when the cab pulled up and the driver told the officer to hop in. The cab drove up to the suspect and the officer got out and made the arrest — but the driver left the scene before police could thank him and pay the fare. [WJLA]
Happy Hour Advertising Bill Passes — Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed a bill that would allow Virginia bars to list the names of drinks they’re offering when advertising happy hour specials. Current ABC laws prohibit ads that use language like “beer and wine specials” or “discounted margaritas.” Even under the new legislation, however, bars would still be prohibited from listing the actual prices of happy hour specials in their advertising. [WTOP]
Rollover Wreck on Washington Blvd — An SUV reportedly ran into two parked cars and then rolled over on Washington Blvd last night. [Twitter]
History of Glebe Road — Why is Glebe Road so named? The road, which dates back to the mid-18th century, is not, as one might think, named after a person. [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Krupicka, who represents parts of south Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax in the 45th District, introduced HB 2188 this month, requiring all taxicabs and vehicles “performing a taxicab service” to mount a digital video camera somewhere on the interior, and to keep it recording the entire time the taxi is in service.
According to the legislation — which is under review in the House Committee on Transportation — the Department of Motor Vehicles would regulate how the recordings are used. That would likely include what happens to the recordings after they are taken, assuming there has been no incident.
“This bill is meant to serve as protection for both the consumer as well as the taxicab driver,” Krupicka’s website says.
Krupicka has also introduced legislation to put a referendum on November’s ballot to incrementally increase the state minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $7.50 on Jan. 1, 2016, $8.00 on Jan. 1, 2017 and $8.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018. The bill is currently in subcommittee.