Arlington County rejects all-electric cabs


The Arlington County Board turned down EV Taxicabs’ offer to add six fast-charging stations for free and allow residents to use them as well. (Courtesy of Malik Khattak)
December 10, 2012

The Arlington County Board rejected the addition of 40 new all-electric vehicles to its taxicab fleet Monday, saying it was not confident that it was ready to allow charging stations to be added to the county infrastructure.

By a 3 to 2 vote, the board turned down EV Taxicabs’ offer to add six fast-charging stations for free and allow residents to use them as well.

“I am very interested in electric vehicles as a long-term strategy,” said board Chairman Mary Hynes. “We’re at the infancy stages. . . . We don’t have a county-wide strategy in place with regard to chargers, and it is that lack which gives me pause.”

The company said it would reapply in two years and might also apply to other jurisdictions in the Washington area.

“We did our best to answer each and every issue. I have no idea why” the board turned EV Taxicabs down, said Malik Khattak, a principal in the new company. “There are other places to start. . . . Hopefully in two years we will have the board’s confidence.”

Board members Jay Fisette and Libby Garvey voted in favor of EV Taxicab; Hynes, Chris Zimmerman and Walter Tejada voted no.

The board did award 10 wheelchair-accessible cab certificates to the county’s two biggest vendors, Red Top and Blue Top cab companies. Board members also added 12 cabs to Friendly Cab Co.’s fleet, which will allow the 40-year-old firm to add dispatch services as well. Almost 70 percent of cab rides in Arlington originate from dispatch calls, officials said.

Arlington awards taxi certificates to companies, not individual drivers. Every two years, the County Board decides whether to expand the taxicab fleet, and its members have expressed interest in increasing competition among the existing cab companies.

Seven companies, with 765 cabs, are licensed in Arlington, and only 27 of those cabs are wheelchair-accessible. Ten companies applied for the overall 65 additional licenses that the county staff recommended. Ten of those 65 would be wheelchair-accessible.

Calls for wheelchair-accessible cabs have gone up significantly in the past two years, and complaints about wait times are growing. Blue Top, the county’s second-biggest cab company, said it almost lost a federal contract because of delays in serving passengers in wheelchairs. Red Top, the county’s dominant taxi company, with 350 cabs, reports about 3,000 trips per month for its 23 wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

While all-electric cabs would have been new to Arlington, 319 hybrid taxis are on the streets.

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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