Hybrid Cab Fleet Rolls Toward Approval in Arlington

EnviroCAB partners Cord Thomas, left, and Hans Hess are banking on hybrids.
EnviroCAB partners Cord Thomas, left, and Hans Hess are banking on hybrids. (Envirocab)
By Mark Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2007

The streets of Arlington County could get a little greener if a new taxi company offering fuel-efficient, low-emission hybrid cabs wins approval to operate in the county.

The Arlington Transportation Commission gave its approval to enviroCAB last week at the panel's annual taxi meeting and recommended that the company be allowed to operate 35 cabs in the county.

The company must now seek approval from the County Board, which could have a public hearing on the proposal as soon as September.

"We think the proposal was really well received," said Hans Hess, owner of enviroCAB. "The county has been very progressive and very open."

Five of the six cab companies already operating in the county also requested additional operating certificates to boost their fleets; like enviroCAB, which had requested 100 certificates, they got part of what they sought. Seventy-six of the 215 new certificates requested were recommended for approval, according to Richard Hartman, a transportation planner with the county's Department of Environmental Services.

"The commission liked the idea of hybrid taxis, but they felt that the total number requested was probably too many, so they tried to balance among the existing companies and the new company with the number of taxis they recommended," Hartman said.

If approved by the County Board, enviroCAB would become the seventh taxicab service in Arlington, and the first to rely solely on hybrid cars. Red Top Cab is purchasing five hybrids for its fleet, while enviroCAB is launching with owner-purchased, owner-operated cabs.

Red Top was recommended for 20 new certificates and plans to use them all for hybrid cabs, said Charlie King, the company's vice president. Five hybrid cars will arrive this month to replace current cabs.

"We're as concerned with energy dependence as anyone," King said. "We feel that the hybrids incorporated into an established fleet operation will produce more service to the public."

But some county residents and drivers said that there are already enough taxis on the streets and that more cabs could have a negative impact on business.

"This is definitely going to hurt the drivers, because they're dealing with a finite market," said Lou Gatti, 58, an Arlington resident and former taxi driver. "The population growth of a county does not equal more taxicabs."

Gatti, who drove a Red Top cab 30 years ago and now owns the Quarterdeck Restaurant in Rosslyn, said that environmentally oriented enviroCAB is a good idea, "but at the expense of the cabs already there."

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