Get ready for a lot of red on city streets.
After a year of debate, District officials are nearing a final decision on a uniform color for the city’s 7,000 taxi cabs.
On Wednesday, the D.C. Taxicab Commission released a preliminary mock up on the new designs. The commission is recommending red cabs with a gray stripe, similar to the city’s Circulator buses and soon-to-be operable street cars.
“The concept is to put it in the transportation motif,” said Ron M. Linton, chairman of the Taxicab Commission. “You have street cars, you have the Circulator, you have buses, all moving on the streets. . . .This fits with transportation mechanisms.”
Before the new design is finalized, there will be a 30-day period for public input. The commission also will hold a May 29 public hearing on the proposal. A final vote could come as early as mid-June.
Last summer, the D.C. Council mandated a uniform color for city cabs as part of a comprehensive overhaul of industry standards and regulations.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and the taxi commission quickly organized a contest to solicit possible designs from residents. But the first set of potential color schemes – many of which relied heavily on green and yellow— were widely panned as ugly.
The reaction was so averse that Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), the chairwoman of the Committee on Transportation, the Environment and Public Works, threatened to introduce legislation to stop the contest.
Neville Waters, a spokesman for the taxicab commission, said the contest was merely to gather public reaction. The commission used that input to help it devise the current proposal. In making its decision, the commission also worked with the Downtown Partnership and the designer of the unique red color scheme on the Circulator Bus, Waters said.
Even if the new color is finalized this summer, Waters cautions it will be several years before all taxis became red.
Under the legislation, taxi owners would switch to the new color when they replace their current vehicles. Waters estimates as many as a 1,000 new cabs a year would include the new red color scheme.
“As vehicles age out of service, for either years or mileage, and have to be replaced, those vehicles will be replaced with the new color design,” Waters said. “It will be probably be a four- or maybe five- year process to get all 7,000 cabs changed over.”
In a city that serves as the seat of government, Gray and others have suggested that red — long a color associated with power — could be a fitting tribute to the city’s influence on a global stage. Others have stressed they would prefer that city cabs stick with yellow, as they are in New York City and numerous other cities.
And some question why the current system – where cab company owners choose the color of their vehicles – needs to be changed.
But Linton said it’s time for the District to have a more noticeable presence.
“We were looking for a transportation image, and a D.C. image,” Linton said. “People will know this as a D.C. cab.”