National Harbor Wants Clean Cabs, Cabbies

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The developers of Prince George County's massive National Harbor are setting down rules to make taxicab service at the 300-acre project as spiffy as the rest of the $3 billion development.

Cabbies have been told that to operate at the facilities' seven hotels, restaurants and stores, their vehicles must be "clean and presentable inside and outside," and drivers "presentable with a neat and clean appearance." Vehicles with an "unpleasant odor" or "body damage" will be banned.

"Please wash your car prior to arriving at National Harbor," drivers were told in fliers distributed by the project's management.

The rules were laid out by the developers at two recent meetings for drivers held in anticipation of National Harbor's opening in April. Representatives for the development call the rules reasonable measures for logical organization at a site, which is expected to generate new business for the county's 775 taxicabs.

Members of the county's Taxicab Board, an advisory panel with members appointed by County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), have expressed concerns that the developer may be overstepping its power to regulate cabs on county roads.

"Some things, they just don't have the authority to do," said Ronald Smith, who owned county cabs for 20 years and is chairman of the taxi board. "How can they set fees and decide who comes in and out?"

Under the rules, drivers will have to display a National Harbor permit, which will be awarded to drivers who attend yearly orientation classes organized by the project's developer, Peterson Cos.

Drivers will not be allowed to cruise the roads at the site looking for fares, but instead must gather in a central staging area to be dispatched to hotels and restaurants.

National Harbor may eventually charge drivers $1 every time they leave the staging area, to help recoup costs for paving and lighting the idling zone, said Kent Digby, a vice president for Peterson of Fairfax.

National Harbor will be anchored by the 2,000-room Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, which will open April 25. Five more hotels are scheduled to open over the next year. Stores and restaurants are planned, as well as 10,000 square feet of office space and condominiums.

Digby said the company is not trying to set rules for the public roads that run through the development. He said, however, that the roads have little pull-off room and would be frequently clogged with construction equipment as the development grows. The company's decision to set up one taxi stand is an attempt to institute order, he said.

"This is a program for them to get good fares without being in double-park areas," he said.

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