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DC cabs should be iconic

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Why aren’t DC cabs this iconic?
Photo by flickr user Ian Muttoo.

One of New York’s most iconic images is the yellow taxicab. The image you see at right is as instantly recognizable as the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building. In London the black cab is just as iconic. In Berlin they are all white, in downtown Hong Kong they are red, and in Mexico City they are green and white. In all those cases, the taxicab livery is as much a symbol of the city as any building or institution.

But not in Washington. In Washington every taxi company has a unique paint scheme. We have Red Top and Blue Top and Yellow Cab (which is often orange) and a hundred other varieties. Are we missing an opportunity?

In most American cities there aren’t enough taxicabs for this to even be an issue. If you’ve got to call ahead to get a ride, taxis are not going to be part of your city’s brand recognition no matter what. But Washington, it turns out, has a ton of cabs. By some measures we have even more than New York (go to the 8th page of this report). When I step outside my Dupont-area home there are often more taxis on the street than private vehicles. Clearly DC *could* have an iconic taxi design if the city so choose.

Why don’t we? It seems like a great way to improve the city’s brand, while at the same time making taxis easier to identify and therefore hail. If any livery-defining regulation grandfathered existing cabs and simply resolved that new ones be uniform, operators wouldn’t have to sink money into repainting, and would likely save money on the painting of new vehicles thanks to economics of scale. Eventually turnover would result in a uniform fleet. Everybody wins.

What’s the down side? Why aren’t we doing this?

December 14th, 2009 | Permalink
Tags: proposal, transportation



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