Arlington cab drivers park, march for a better deal - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Arlington cab drivers park, march for a better deal

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About 70 Arlington County cab drivers parked their taxis during lunchtime Tuesday to call attention to their unhappiness over working conditions.

There are now 787 licensed taxicabs serving the 26 square miles of Arlington County, Va. Around noon, about 70 of the drivers parked their cabs at the Clarendon Metro station, and marched around the business district there to let people know they are unhappy.

Drivers in Arlington say they have a hard time making a living. Here is a quick look at their economics: Drivers who rent cabs pay about $90 a day to rent the vehicles. On average, they spend about $40 for gas. So they start their shift about $130 in the hole.

When customers pay by credit card, the drivers lose three percent, and they say tips average only about $2 a ride.

Even drivers who own their own cabs have to pay $200 weekly fees to the companies who own the "certificates" needed to operate. For that, the cabbies get "dispatch" business, but sometimes they don't get much of it.

Here's part of our interview with Abdellah Ouazzani, an Arlington cabbie:

FOX 5: "How many [dispatch calls] did you get yesterday?”

Quazzani: “Zero.”

FOX 5: “How about last Friday? How many dispatch calls did you get last Friday?

Quazzani: “Maybe one or two.”

FOX 5: “And, is that normal? Is that typical?”

Quazzani: “That's the normal thing, yes."

Drivers also say they cannot move from one cab company to another.

"We cannot even mention it,” said taxi operator Daniel H. Mariam. “If we mention it, we are in trouble.”

To further demonstrate their concerns, the Arlington cabbies drove very slowly around the Clarendon area.

We asked Arlington Board Chairman Walter Tejada (D) about some of the drivers' concerns, including the certificates going to a limited number of companies, which drivers say makes switching jobs difficult.

When we told him that drivers say that makes it almost impossible for them to switch from one company to another and they feel trapped, Tejada responded, “Well, there are pros and cons of that. And I think that's part of the conversation we need to engage in -- deeper than we have in the past. And see what kind of adjustments [for] the drivers that we can do, and, at the same time, protect the integrities of the companies."

The cab drivers want a public hearing to air their concerns. Chairman Tejada said that probably won't happen until next year, when the county reviews its taxicab ordinances.

A spokesman for Red Top, the biggest cab company in Arlington, declined an on-camera interview. But he reminded us (over the phone) that the dispatching service provided by the companies allows customers to get taxi service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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