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Need a Limo Ride? Get a Permit

VIPs stars will jet into Washington and politicians and corporate big-wigs will glide about town for dozens of Inauguration events. That is, if their hired drivers get permission to drive them around.

Hundreds of out-of-state limousine drivers are waiting outside of the offices of the DC Taxicab Commission, clutching paperwork to get a Special Vehicle For Hire. Without it, Oprah and her posse, Hollywood stars, lobbyists and elected officials moving from event to event will be without rides because drivers won’t be able to enter special security zones. How potentially disastrous.

Drivers complained that there was little notice about the requirement to apply for a special per-car permit of $125. Without it, out-of-state hired cards will not be able to enter the District or drive inside of the security perimeter. They will receive two decals: one to put in their right front windshield and one for the left rear. District hired cars do not have to apply since they are already registered with the Commission.

Greg Zelano drove in today from New Castle Delaware to get a permit for a big corporate client who has booked them. He’s trying to register just one car. “I thought it was ridiculous to have to drive two-and-a-half hours for a permit,” he said, wishing there was an online means.

DC Taxicab Commissioner Leon J. Swain said despite the flurry of last-minute applications, the regulation has been on the books since 1994 and for every large special event the city has had – past inaugurations, the World Cup, it goes into effect. Swain said he passed word through the National Limousine Association. He said the office has processed 1,000 permits, and counting.

“It isn’t like we weren’t prepared for them," he said of the onslaught of applicants, "it’s just that it’s getting close now and people are just confirming their reservations.”

Imran Altaf of Black Top Limousine based in Fairfax, Va. was waiting patiently in line, for as long as he had to. He’s scored the job of driving around Oprah and her posse for several days. He needs to register a total of 19 cars, and will spend about $2,375.

But the more pressing question: how did he score the Oprah job? He smiled. “We do a lot of advertising, he said.”

By Theola Labbé-DeBose and Elissa Silverman

By David A Nakamura  |  January 15, 2009; 4:28 PM ET  | Category:  Transportation
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