The D.C. Taxicab Commission contest asking residents to select what color city taxicabs should be may be short-lived.
Instead of multi-colored cabs, council members said they preferred one uniform color, such as yellow, red or black.
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At a closed door organizational council meeting, Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said the body needs to act quickly to stop the contest so that a new color scheme can be selected.
“I was appalled by all of them,” Evans said of the proposed colors. “I wanted a yellow cab or a black cab, not a kaleidoscope cab…Nobody was thinking multi colors.”
Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), the chairwoman of the Committee on Public Works, the Environment and Transportation, agreed that the council should consider legislation to override the proposed colors.
Earlier this year, Cheh oversaw the enactment of the taxi reform legislation that mandated that all city cabs eventually have the same colors. Cheh told her colleagues Tuesday the purpose of the color provision was to make taxis stand out. The proposed color schemes, Cheh said, would make it harder than it currently is for passengers to see registration numbers needed to file complaints.
“They are so busy,” Cheh said of the markups currently in the contest. “The bill intended for a single color.”
Cheh, who may partner with Evans on legislation clarifying the intended color, noted she conducted a survey earlier this year soliciting input on residents’ preferred color for taxicabs.
The survey found that 38 percent of respondents favored yellow cabs in the District, compared to 15 percent who selected red, and 11 percent who chose orange. No other color finished with more than 10 percent.
Evans said he also supports yellow. But Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) said the District should adopt red as a uniform color to distinguish the city’s cabs from those in New York and other big cities. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) has also publicly stated his preference for red, noting it would conform cabs to the D.C. Circulator and Capital Bikeshare.
But the Gray administration said the law empowered the Taxicab Commission to finalize the color, one reason the contest is being held.
Pedro Ribeiro, a Gray spokesman, urged the council to stay out of the process of selecting a uniform color. He said the administration always expected “a contentious process” and still has months to refine the proposed colors.
“The council is too busy to do campaign finance reform, but they want to legislate the color of taxis?” Ribeiro asked, referring to council’s decision not to take up campaign reforms this year. “This is the procedure the legislation provided for. They already legislated this.”
Ron Linton, head of the D.C. Taxicab Commission, said his commissioners and staff came up with more than 100 proposed designs after the council mandated a single color scheme for all cabs, and then narrowed it down to the current finalists.
Linton cautioned, depending on feedback, that the commission on its own could decide not to proceed with the proposed color schemes currently in the contest.
“The council needs to let the commission to work its way through this,” Linton said.
But if the council decides to intervene, Linton said he would be happy to follow whatever color they mandate.
“If they feel that way, they are the policy makers,”Linton said. “The council makes the law, we implement the law. They made a law, we are trying to implement that.”