On the ground in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

No new taxis for Arlington, for now

December 13, 2010 - 12:46 PM
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Taxi Stand
Cabs wait for fares outside the Rosslyn Metro station. (Photo: TBD Staff)

Arlington has enough taxis at the moment. At least that's what members of the county board decreed with Saturday's vote denying additional taxi license applications.

Upstart cab company EnviroCab had asked to add 25 new cabs to its 50-cab hybrid fleet, and a fledgling new business, GoGreen Cab, was hoping to get approval for its first 50 cabs.

The county board denied both requests Dec. 11, however, deferring to a staff report that found Arlington's cabs are already meeting its needs.

There are currently 765 taxis licensed in Arlington. That's about the same as Alexandria, and significantly less than D.C. (The district has 6,515 registered cabs.)

While county board's decision may have been a disappointment for two cab company proprietors, it was good news for the dozen or so cab drivers that attended Saturday's public hearing, and, they said, for all drivers in Arlington.

"At all the cab stands at any time, you will see more cabs waiting for customers than customers waiting for cabs," taxi driver Abdelkrim Bouwakioud told the board. "I think we are doing a good job with the number we have right now."

"There are a lot of taxis out there, working hard, working seven days a week," said one speaker, F. Naim, who said her husband starts work every day at 4 a.m. "Gas is costing my husband $50 every two days, and the stands are full. He can’t come up with a space."

Her story is similar to what county staff found in an informal report this year, which is that generally, the taxi stands in Arlington are full. Tickets given to cabs for loitering in non-designated areas have also increased, according to the report.

"Frequently staff observed taxicab stands overflowing, resulting in traffic congestion and issues with taxicabs obstructing access," staff writes.

Cabs do jam up large swaths of Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon and Ballston on busy weekend nights, with driver's hoping for local fares coming out of those neighborhoods' many bars. The county has added several new stands this year — the time-restricted stand across the street from Whitlow's, as well as the one in front of Spider Kelley's and Clarendon Ballroom — jump to mind.

"We do have to consider market saturation as a factor, if the drivers who are already out there are not busy enough, we would just be adding to that saturation," board member Barbara Favola said at the meeting.

But almost half of the people that responded to last week's poll still said that they feel it's tough to get a cab during peak times. And this author knows for a fact that projected wait times on Saturday evenings — like the one for a cab to a certain holiday party on this past Saturday night — are usually optimistic.

And Envirocab's Hans Hess argued that his company, now entering its third year of business, doesn't have enough cabs to meet its demand. "All our other competitors have extensive fleets, and if something goes wrong, they have a lot of opportunities to make sure that person is picked up and taken care of," Hess said. "In our fleet, we don’t have a bench. Robust competition doesn’t really exist for us."

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