D.C. could eventually have one cab color to rule them all. Or stripes.
Mayor Vincent Gray unveiled four new color schemes on Monday, one of which will be chosen next year as the new paint job for the district’s 6,500 taxicabs, a process that will take years to fully implement. The multicolored striped patterns are one piece of a larger modernization effort that is coming together slowly -- too slowly for D.C.’s top taxi regulator.
“I’m a very impatient person and I would like to speed it up,” said Ron Linton, the head of the Taxicab Commission.
Although district lawmakers passed a taxicab modernization bill this year, the most important changes have yet to come to fruition: GPS smart meters, credit card payment machines and touch screen monitors for customers in the back seat.
The new paint jobs will be introduced when taxi drivers replace their aging vehicles; by 2018 no cab on Washington’s streets will be older than 7 years, as per a new regulation, Linton said.
“The people who ride in the cabs were pushing and pushing for a modernization program,” said Linton, referring to a survey undertaken by the office of D.C. Council member Mary Cheh that found widespread dissatisfaction with the current conditions of taxicabs. That survey also found the public’s preferred color to be yellow (38%). Red was second (15%).
Linton’s office will choose the winning color scheme next year, taking into consideration public opinion. The public may vote for their favorite inside Verizon Center through January 7 where two sample future taxicabs are on display, or choose designs online.
(UPDATE, 12/11/12 1:30pm: Two D.C. city council members -- one of whom said he was "appalled" by the color choices - say they will consider legislation to end the public vote so a new color scheme can be chosen.)
Last month a panel of administrative law judges killed the district’s plan to install credit card machines in cabs because of problems with the contract awarded to VeriFone, which beat out seven other tech firms. Linton says the matter is still being resolved by the District Office of Contracting and Procurement.
“We selected Verifone on the basis of what was, in my judgment, an honest evaluation and a cost analysis,” he said.
At a news conference to unveil the proposed color schemes and encourage the public to vote on their favorite, Mayor Gray said changes to the district’s taxis are necessary not only to improve the hospitality industry but for the cabbies, too.
“The changes have to come,” Gray said. “This industry has got to change to be competitive. I actually think the cab drivers will make more money as a result of this.”
Gray said touch screen monitors that offer riders the option of tipping 15, 20, or 25 percent will induce larger tips.
“As opposed to what you have now where people in a cash business sometimes give nothing or give a meager sum, I think the cab drivers will ultimately do better as a result of the changes we’re proposing.”
When those changes ultimately arrive is unclear, although Gray and Linton said it will take years to fully implement the new color scheme. Roughly one-third of taxicabs have installed credit card machines on their own, Linton said.
As for D.C.’s cabbies, some have been reluctant to accept changes that are commonplace in other cities. A common complaint is credit card processing fees will bite into a day’s pay. Others say GPS smart meters are an invasion of privacy. As for the proposed color patterns, one cabbie waiting for customers outside Union Station on Monday was not impressed.
“It looks ugly. It’s no good for the city color,” said B.K. Anthony, who drives a light blue SUV. “It looks junky.”
For the record, Mayor Gray called the colors “funky.”
: The multi-colored patterns of yellow and green OR red and white are – in the words of some D.C. councilmembers – appalling! And now two lawmakers say they will consider legislation to end the public vote so a new color scheme can be chosen. Councilmembers prefer a solid color like yellow or red to the striped patterns unveiled by the D.C. Taxicab Commission yesterday, which would have the final say on a color regardless of what the public picks. A survey conducted by Councilmember Mary Cheh on the state of the district’s cab industry found that 38 percent of respondents want all-yellow cabs, 15 percent want red.