Arlington Co. considers adding more taxi cabs

Hailing a cab in Arlington could soon get easier.

The county is considering beefing up its taxi fleet.

The last time the county approved extra cabs was four years ago.

The population is growing in Arlington. Tourism is up. So, many commuters say it's about time more taxis roll through.

It may be just a matter of months until the taxicab line in Rosslyn stretches out farther.

The county manager is calling for more cabs and so are commuters.

"In D.C., you snap your fingers and you get a taxicab," says Michael Porterfield, an Arlington commuter."

But over in Arlington, it's not always so easy.

Besides the growing demand by riders, drivers say taxicab companies have a waiting list of people hoping to get behind the wheel.

Albert Amissah works for Blue Top Cab and has been in the business for 27 years.

"Currently they have about 30 drivers waiting," he says. "Some of them passed the test, but they can't get a cab to drive."

That's because the county puts a cap on the number of cabs on the road.

"We're concerned that we're really matching the level of cab service with the demand and no flooding the market with too many cabs so it's getting the right balance," says Dennis Leach, Dept. Dir. Transportation Development, Dept. of Environmental Services.

Leach says there are 765 authorized taxis.

But an extra 55 may be added on, as well as 5 new wheelchair-accessible cabs.

"We've seen an increase in population in Arlington," Leach says. "We've seen about a 9 percent jobs growth in Arlington since 2008. We've also seen an up tick in trips to National Airport and a dramatic increase in dispatch trips, 17 percent in the last couple years.

Signs of economic improvement spilling over into the transportation industry.

But none of this is a done deal.

The county is taking applications from its seven authorized taxicab companies, looking at expanding service as well as new applicants seeking certificates to drive.

It's a lengthy process that happens every two years. The last go-around, no new cabs were approved.

The county board will vote on this issue later this fall.

The county is also taking into consideration a recent online ridership survey conducted from March 15-June 15, 2012.

Of the roughly 1,000 respondents, 36 percent said cab service in the county is the same as in neighboring areas. And 56 percent said it's better.