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Posted at 9:22 AM ET, 02/11/2011

Prince George's cab drivers: New medallion process is too slow

By Miranda S. Spivack

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.

By Miranda S. Spivack  | February 11, 2011; 9:22 AM ET
Categories:  Prince George's County  
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Couldn't they just borrow one of the medallions Al Sharpton used to wear?

Posted by: kenk33 | February 11, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Their livehood should be at risk. Taxicabs in prince George's County are oldest, ugliest, most raggedy in the entire Washington metorpolitan area.

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | February 11, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Now we will have 2x the number of taxicabs, sitting at the METRO stations in PeeGee Countee

Posted by: Robbnitafl | February 11, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Agreed: taxicabs in Prince George's County are often in bad and sometimes very bad, shape.

However, when the new taxicab code went into effect (Oct. 2010) three individuals owned or controlled upwards of 690 of the county's then 785 taxicabs - which means the cab companies NOT the cab drivers are responsible for the condition of the cabs.

To make matters worse however, on average cab drivers have to pay the owners of these cab companies $330 A WEEK to rent one of their cabs and in return they and we -- the riding public -- get...well, you've seen the cabs!

So you've got to wonder where the money goes because despite receiving as much as $330 a week for each of 690 medallions (you do the math) these companies do not provide their drivers with health insurance, paid leave, workers comp...Get the picture?

And what of the county's taxicab inspectors?

They inspect these company-owned cabs every 12 months and despite the condition of the vehicles they regularly pass inspection - despite the fact that the taxicab code prohibits things like missing or cracked bumpers and glass, for example.

As for the county office under Mr. Kashanian's management: This office has known since August 2010 (the date the new taxicab code was passed) that they would have to issue 390 new taxicab medallions by the time the new law went into effect. Yet 6 months after the law was passed they are STILL not prepared to do so?!

Hmmm. I wonder why and how that can be.

I also wonder whether the aforementioned taxicab inspectors are also under his management?

If so, I think I'm starting to see a pattern here...

Can you say: incompetent?

In the end, this county office should be ashamed of themselves for contributing to the unemployment of 250+ low-income workers.

And more importantly, they should be held accountable.

Now THAT is a novel idea in the Prince George's County taxicab industry.

Posted by: madrugada99 | February 12, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

thank you miranda. i was one of the cab drivers who was in the confernce room thursday afternoon while you were interviewing us. mere hours after we did after that interview with you, all of us got phone calls from the license office telling us our medallions were ready and we can pick them up in the morning. thank you again for writing the article and for speaking with us and for calling mr. kashanian.

ps. thank you to you too auroa

Posted by: pgTaxiCabbie | February 12, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

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