Rooftop dome lights really are important. And under the Improvement Act, passengers could more easily use them to report “failures to haul” — the cabbie term for an available driver refusing to stop for someone on the street, an issue intrinsically tied up with race and class. A dome light is important. Nobody is writing e-mails about the dome light.
When it comes down to it, maybe the people of Washington are happy, as Tapscott speculates, to get into any cab that will stop for them. Taxi color is an issue of little practical importance, but huge symbolic importance.
Perhaps the cabs should be red and white, to symbolize the state flag, standing in for the state we do not have. Perhaps the cabs should be three different colors. Washington is a complicated city, after all. A seat of power abutting neighborhoods of poverty. A melting pot of national and international cultures. An arena of clashing political beliefs.
As of the public meeting, Tapscott was still not sure how he was going to vote.
‘An important cog in D.C.’
“I’m kind of like the pope,” Ron Linton says, laughing. “He feels about his job the way I feel about mine.”
Linton is the chairman of the taxicab commission. It is to him that the panel will make its recommendation. (He is joking, by the way. He’s not going to resign — he’s just commenting on his desire to stay out of the color fray until the recommendation is made.)
Linton’s office, down by the Anacostia Freeway in a building that also includes a medical clinic and a Social Security office, is bland and governmental. His hair is white, his tie is impressionistic and floral, he’s wearing his plastic ID badge on a lanyard around his neck. He comes across as a patient, practical man. He’s been in his position for about a year and a half, meaning he entered office about six months before the improvement bill was introduced.
“I would anticipate,” he speculates, that the panel will recommend either a single-color option, or a two-color option. He doesn’t know which colors. He’s waiting until the Wednesday meeting, which will be open to the public. Even after the recommendations are made, they must be approved by the commission as a whole, and then brought to the D.C. Council. There will be another 30-day public comment period. It’s still a few months before the first uniform taxis would hit the streets.
He sees the need for these improvements, and he understands why the colors are important to some industries, to certain groups of people. “The color fits into the aesthetics,” of the city, he says. They are “an important cog in D.C. selling itself as a great place to visit.”
Outside, in a small, crammed parking lot lines of taxi drivers snake their way up to the building.
All the colors of the spectrum. For now.