The Washington Post

Prince George’s: Gaylord National Resort was wrong to bring in out-of-county cabbies

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD- MAY 31, 2013: One of the new private car service vehicles sat in front of the Residence Inn across from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on May 31, 2013 in National Harbor, MD.(Photo by Mark Gail/For The Washington Post) A private car service vehicle sits in front of the Residence Inn across from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on May 31, 2013 in National Harbor, MD.(Mark Gail/For The Washington Post)

Prince George’s County said the out-of-county taxis that picked up fares at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center last week broke county law.

“The action taken by Gaylord was not legal,” said Carol Terry, a spokeswoman for the Prince George’s Department of Public Works and Transportation. The agency, which oversees the taxi industry, is investigating the infractions, she said.

Taxicabs registered outside Prince George’s have “no rights to solicit business or transport other passengers in this County,” according to a county regulation. Enforcement of the code could include a $1,000 citation.

“We are working with Gaylord to ensure that such infractions do not occur in the future,”  Terry said.  She said the infraction was done “due to the emergencies surrounding the WSSC water shut off and evacuation of personnel and guests from the hotel.”

Some Prince George’s taxi drivers said they did not get any fares while Arlington and Washington Flyer taxicabs picked up passengers at the resort in National Harbor during the large checkout Wednesday, July 17. The AFL-CIO filed a complaint with the county’s transportation agency that day.

Veolia operates the Washington Flyer and the Arlington taxicabs that picked up passengers at Gaylord last week.

Dwight Kines, a Veolia spokesman, said the company brought in vehicles from the other jurisdictions because they were overbooked with reservations due to the mass checkout during the water emergency situation.

He said, the hotel could not count on the county taxis to do the job because they had heard the taxicabs were planning a work stoppage.

“We needed to be able to get the guests out reliably,” Kines said in an email Tuesday night.

Beth Levie, the Washington-based organizer for the AFL-CIO who filed the complaint, said the drivers were ready to take passengers during the water emergency and had no plans to go on strike.

County taxi drivers have been picketing in front of Gaylord  twice a week for the past month, protesting a new car service provided by Veolia.

In June, Gaylord National launched the new service that they say is a direct response to feedback from guests.  The resort company said guests have complained about language barriers, route choices and the unpredictability of the meter system in the cabs.

Each day, between 100 and 200 taxi drivers serve National Harbor, and its six hotels on the shores of the Potomac in Oxon Hill.  Taxi drivers say most of their business come from Gaylord National, the largest hotel on the East Coast with almost 2,000 rooms.

Prince George’s officials met with representatives from the Gaylord and Veolia on Tuesday to address the complaint and other concerns brought up by county taxi industry, Terry said.

She said the county is in ongoing negotiations with the companies and plans to convene representatives from Gaylord, Veolia, AFL-CIO and the taxi industry to discuss their concerns.

The agency, she said, “is working diligently to resolve this issue and believes that this issue can only be resolved through negotiations and understanding between all the parties.”

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.



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