An Arlington taxicab company that holds 50 permits but has only one vehicle should be allowed to keep its permits for the next two years while it seeks to hire drivers and gain access to Reagan National Airport, the county manager has advised Arlington leaders.
All Access Taxi, which won the permits in January 2015 by promising to host an entire fleet capable of transporting people who use wheelchairs, has so far provided only one van, which recorded just 10 trips in the first half of 2016, the county said.
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz told the County Board in a memo dated Oct. 14 that he would not exercise his power to reduce the number of permits held by All Access Taxi.
“The county has no reason to believe allowing the unused certificates to remain available will harm the purpose of the taxicab regulation to protect the health, safety and welfare of the traveling public,” Schwartz wrote. “Due to the fact that there were no new applications received, unused certificates could not potentially be allocated to another company. Allowing the companies to continue pursuing measures to bring these vehicles into the fleet would benefit customers, specifically those that need accessible vehicles.”
Julie Piché, the owner of All Access, said Monday that she will have 10 new drivers and cabs on the road “within the next month to month-and-a-half.” An additional 20 are “in the process” of buying and outfitting their cabs, and she expects to have “at least 30 [drivers] on the road within six months.”
As soon as she does, she said, she will reach out to the local disability community about the service. Representatives of a number of organizations that lobby for people with disabilities said in July that they were unaware that the company exists.
Schwartz told the County Board that he has received letters from people with disabilities urging him to grant All Access extra time to get its cabs up and running.
All Access has outsourced its dispatch service to Friendly Cab, one of eight taxi companies that operate within Arlington. Its sole cab is parked on a small patch of lawn behind Friendly’s office.
Piché is also hoping for permission to operate at National, which could encourage more drivers to buy and equip accessible vehicles. A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said that All Access has submitted requests for airport permits for 12 drivers.
Four of those drivers have passed the airport’s test, three failed and three more are awaiting their scores, she said. Two others are undergoing background checks by the Transportation Security Administration, the spokeswoman said, but she could not say how long that will take.
Arlington County issued 847 taxicab permits in late 2014, and those permits are reviewed every two years. Companies pay the county $150 a year for each permit. The county has issued 97 permits for wheelchair-accessible cabs; All Access holds 50 with just one cab on the road, Blue Top holds 19 with nine cabs in operation, and Red Top has 28 permits and is using all of them.
The arrival of such competitors as Uber and Lyft in Northern Virginia has significantly affected the taxicab industry, making it more difficult for taxi companies to retain both customers and drivers.
In Arlington alone, 2,559 people have registered with the state Department of Motor Vehicles as drivers for Uber or Lyft. Drivers are not limited by jurisdiction, so it’s likely that some of the 3,273 Alexandria drivers and the 12,191 Fairfax County drivers are ferrying Arlingtonians on any given day.