Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

DC May See Red Cabs

A District of Columbia Taxicab Commission panel recommended that all D.C. cabs be painted red in a public meeting Feb. 13, adding to regulations that include a 2012 proposal mandating standardized dome lights on city taxis.

“Red is a color that is associated with the District, both among residents and visitors,” the DCTC’s One-Color Panel said in its recommendation statement. The four-person panel cited the District’s flag, the city’s sports teams, the Circulator buses and Capital Bikeshare as examples of the color’s prevalence throughout the city.

If the proposal is accepted after the full commission considers it in March, cab drivers will have to switch over to red when they replace their vehicles upon reaching their service limit, which depends on age and mileage. The drivers will be responsible for the costs of painting the car red.

According to D.C Taxicab Commission Public Information Officer Neville Waters (MBA ’91), the standardized dome lights, which are now in the proposed rulemaking stage, would have LED lights to demonstrate taxis’ availability and feature a four-digit vehicle identification number.

“It will enable passengers, if they have a problem, to see that four-digit number and notify us to lodge a complaint,” Waters said.

While Waters is hopeful that the dome lights could be installed by the spring or the early summer, he said the complete transition to red cabs would take about five years.

The uniform color scheme has been met with resistance by many cab companies.

“We oppose the one color scheme,” Yellow Cab Company of D.C General Manager Roy Spooner said. “Our colors are part of our brand. That’s how people recognize our company and our cabs on the street, by our color scheme.”

Spooner distinguishes the color change from other cab reforms that he says benefit customers.

“Changing your color doesn’t improve service,” Spooner said. “We already do GPS, credit card, apps and all these different things and that’s how you improve service, not by changing the color of the cab.”

Other cab company representatives agree.

“We will mourn the disappearance of our unique color scheme,” Diamond Cab Dispatcher Nathan Harris said.

Cab drivers have voiced protests as well, especially over the cost of repainting their cabs themselves.

“It is completely ludicrous and will cost drivers extremely large amounts of money with no return,” Yellow Cab driver Nathan Price said. “I have had the same colors for 40 years, and I don’t understand the need of [the change].”

Price’s cab is a 2002 model that he says will have to be off the streets by about 2015. He estimates that the cost of the mandated improvements, which also include installing a smart meter, will be about $40,000.

“In June of 2008 to May of 2012, we operated on a minimum of 25 to a max of 40 percent deficit in income, so how can drivers all of a sudden afford to put out $40,000?” he said.

Price called the legislation “economical genocide.”

“I own my cab now, but the way they have things set up, I don’t know how much longer I will be able to own it,” he said.

Price feels that the work of taxi drivers is not being appreciated.

“These drivers have given all these years of public service to the district and in return they’re forcing you to do something that is almost financially impossible.”

The one-color scheme was motivated by a number of reasons, including having a color distinctly linked to the District and distinguishing legal cabs, according to Waters.

Students generally approve of the one-color scheme.

“It will be easier to distinguish the cabs and you will see them coming from a further distance,” Maddie Gallo (NHS ’16) said. “It will make travel easier.”

Others said that the red cabs would help improve safety.

“Sometimes I feel threatened getting into a cab if I’m not familiar with its appearance,” Manavi Bhagwat (SFS ’16) said. “The uniform color will add to the legitimacy and will help students feel safer when taking cab rides.”
Nonetheless, Waters acknowledged that the dome lights would have a greater effect on modernizing the fleet and making them more visible to users.
“I expect that over the next couple of years we will have a modern fleet and hopefully people will be saying that the D.C. cab industry is one of the best in the world,” he said.

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