Prince George's cab drivers: New medallion process is too slow
Dozens of Prince George's County cab drivers who had hoped to obtain one of 390 new medallions the county plans to issue this year say the process is taking too long, threatening their livelihoods.
A new law that took effect Oct. 1 doubles the number of medallions in the county; it is being challenged by cab companies in a lawsuit.
Behdad A. Kashanian, who oversees the office in the Department of Environmental Resources that screens the drivers and issues the permits, said his staff is doing all it can to issue the medallions and that the lawsuit had not slowed down the process.
He said the amount of paperwork that needs to be reviewed, as well as his office's workload issuing permits for 17 different professions, makes the process slower than he would like.
Henock S. Wogderse, a cab driver who is part of a a group of drivers asking the county speed up the process, said he and his fellow drivers had been led to believe that the process would move more quickly after the new law took effect.
He said that many of the drivers are out of work because they had taken their cabs out of service in December to get them painted and registered and to install new meters. Others, who had rented cabs directly from the cab companies, turned their cars in, believing they would be able to get their own medallions quickly.
Three cab companies had a virtual lock on most of the taxi business in the county until the County Council last year approved the measure allowing more independent cabs. Critics had said the companies were not doing enough to serve the community and that more independent drivers could increase competition in the county.
"Every step of the way we have had problems," said Getachew Merigesha Guracha, who has been active in the drivers' effort.
Kesetedrhan Abra, another driver, said he had been out of work for more than a month, having given up working for a cab company to get his car ready for its own medallion..
"How do I pay the rent? How do I feed my kids?" he asked.
Kashanian said his office is moving as quickly as it can. "I have only three permit specialists who process 17 different types of licenses. I can't just stop all the other activities."
He said he would like to move more quickly. "If I had the manpower, I would be happy to do that. This is a very fast process to be honest with you," he said.
The drivers said they were hoping to get a meeting with County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) to see if anything could be done to speed things up. As of Thursday, there were about 90 applications pending, Kashanian said.
The new law authorizing the new medallions requires drivers to be pre-screened. Of about 400 who applied for the new medallions, about 250 were deemed qualified but not all have yet submitted their applications, he said.
The lawsuit by the cab companies is scheduled for a hearing in March.
Update 11:15 a.m.:
Baker will meet with the drivers Thursday, a spokesman said.
Miranda S. Spivack
| February 11, 2011; 9:22 AM ET
Categories: Prince George's County
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