Five Washington cab companies will be issued cease and desist orders for failing to meet a June 30 deadline to convert at least 6 percent of their fleets to wheelchair-accessible vans. The companies also failed to file appeals within a two-week window that expired on Wednesday.
“Those companies that are not in compliance have been notified that they would be denied their certificate of operating authority,” said commission spokesman Neville Waters, who said their cabs would be impounded if caught doing business in the District.
However, a judge lifted the suspension and cease and desist order for Sun Cab Association. According to Sean Riley, an attorney who represents Sun Cab Association, under D.C. regulations taxicab companies are entitled to a temporary certificate of operating authority for 6 months.
Nineteen companies filed appeals and will be allowed to continue to operate in Washington.
In interviews, owners of two companies filing appeals, Rock Creek Cab and Silver Cab in Northeast D.C., said they would soon be in compliance with the new wheelchair-accessible mandate.
“They are not going to shut us down. They are going to penalize. How much is the [penalty]? When is the [penalty]? We don’t know,” said Silver Cab’s Mohammad Momen, who added that he is purchasing the wheelchair-accessible vans only because of the new rules.
“They should do some study. Do we need this?” he said.
At Rock Creek Cab, owner Moe Rahim said his appeal will keep his cab drivers working while a new order of five wheelchair-accessible vans reaches his lot.
“The way this was methodically thought out by [the commission] and brought forward to us company owners, was totally incorrect,” said Rahim, who purchased five 2014 minivans that regulators determined could not be considered new vehicles under the regulations — after first granting Rahim’s approvals in April.
The five companies that must shut down operations employ a total 293 vehicles, according to the D.C. Taxicab Commission. But 230 are independently owned and their drivers will be given 90 days to affiliate with another company and stay in business.
While the taxi companies that missed the June 30 deadline pursue their appeals, disability rights advocates are pleased that most of Washington’s disparate taxi industry reached the minimum number of wheelchair-accessible vans required under 2014 legislation. About 100 vans now are available through the Transport D.C. program or via dispatch through five central dispatch companies, including Yellow Cab and Transco, two of D.C.’s largest.
But the companies largely have been on their own to fulfill the mandates. As WAMU has reported, funding approved by the D.C. Council to provide grants to purchase wheelchair-accessible vans was unspent.
The commission will soon unveil a plan to use that funding, Waters said.
“We will offer to qualified individuals and companies an opportunity to obtain wheelchair accessible vehicles,” he said. “It should be very attractive to drivers and provide incentives for them to make that transition.”
“The commission is developing a program that will offer a series of grants and training that will be offered to drivers and companies to encourage the transition and acquisition of wheelchair-accessible vehicles,” Waters added.
Both advocates and local labor leaders have been pushing the taxicab commission to adopt such a policy. The Teamsters union lobbied the commission to release an additional 200 H-tags (licenses) for independent drivers interested in operating wheelchair-accessible vans, but the District officials scrapped the idea — even though an internal commission report determined such a move would not negatively impact the taxi market in Washington.
As for ride-hailing companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar that presently offer no wheelchair-ready rides in Washington, a one percent tax on their gross revenues is going toward a fund designed to assist compliant taxi fleets purchase additional accessible vans.
Companies Receiving Cease and Desist Notification
- Dove Cab
- Maine Cab
- United Cab
- Washingtonian Cab
Companies That Filed an Appeal
- Ambassador Cab
- Black Pearl
- Classic Cab
- Columbia Cab
- Constitution Cab
- Dial Cab
- Dynasty Cab
- Empire Cab
- Essence Cab
- Fairway Cab
- Grand Cab
- Luxury Cab
- Meritt Cab
- Patriot Cab
- Presidential Cab
- Rock Creek Cab
- Silver Cab
- Travelers Cab
- VIP Cab