The Taxi Link: Are drivers at National Harbor being pushed out? Should Alexandria drivers choose their own company?


Taxi leader Fisseha Tesfaye speaks with Pete Tucker in the parking garage opposite Gaylord National

The Taxi Link airs Sat. 7-8 pm on WUST 1120 AM. Listen here (imperfect audio in first minute)

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Just over the District line at National Harbor, the upscale mini-city and resort on the Potomac River, Prince George’s County taxi drivers say they’re being pushed aside to make way for Veolia, the French transportation giant.

Drivers say they’ve been informed that beginning June 1 they’ll no longer be able to pay a monthly fee to park at National Harbor. Unable to afford the high $3 an hour parking meter rates, drivers say they’ll effectively be cut off from accessing National Harbor hotel guests. “I believe they are trying to get rid of us,” National Harbor taxi leader Fisseha Tesfaye told The Taxi Link. 

While National Harbor didn’t respond to The Taxi Link in time for broadcast, Gaylord National – the massive hotel, convention center and resort at National Harbor – provided a written statement (see below). Gaylord National said it doesn’t own the parking garage across from the hotel – which is owned by The Peterson Companies, management for National Harbor – nor does it “believe that taxi drivers are being evicted.’”

In its statement, Gaylord National also outlined its future plans with Veolia, which seem to confirm drivers’ fears.

“Beginning in June, Veolia Transportation, Gaylord National’s transportation vendor, will enhance their services to offer Express Transport – a new, eco-friendly, hybrid-vehicle car service… [which] will serve as a lower-cost alternative to Veolia’s luxury, black-sedan car service.”

“Clearly what you see is they’re trying to squeeze out the cab driver,” said The Taxi Link co-host Tony Norman.

Meanwhile this week in Alexandria, drivers saw city council move forward with a credit card mandate that provides companies, but not independent drivers, with the right to select their credit card processors. “For some reason, the city [views us] as independent contractors when it comes to obligations, but when it comes to benefits we are just [viewed as] employees,” Alexandria taxi leader Daniel Berhane told The Taxi Link.

Alexandria city council also voted to establish a task force to study the issue of mobility. Drivers contend that, as independent contractors who own their own vehicle, they should have the ability to freely associate with any company they choose and not be forced to stay with a company for two years, as the city currently requires. “The companies are taking advantage [of drivers],” said Berhane. “It’s very simple: Let the market dictate.”

“There are many laws that are questionable… and there are many practices that are questionable, but if nobody ever challenges it in court then they continue,” said Tony Norman. “I would stress that the drivers ought to look into challenging some of these issues about their right to move from company to company.”

This week in D.C., a TV personality continued his quest for an Emmy Award with yet another sting operation against taxi drivers. In his latest piece, Channel 9’s Russ Ptacek claimed that half of D.C. taxis don’t stop for handicapped passengers.

Here’s the full statement from Gaylord National: 

“Beginning in June, Veolia Transportation, Gaylord National’s transportation vendor, will enhance their services to offer Express Transport – a new, eco-friendly, hybrid-vehicle car service featuring flat-rate fares to destinations throughout the Washington, D.C. region.  This new fleet of vehicles will serve as a lower-cost alternative to Veolia’s luxury, black-sedan car service.

“Since opening five years ago, our guests have expressed their desires for high-quality personal transportation service with clean vehicles, courteous and knowledgeable drivers and reasonable, flat-rate fares to the area’s top destinations.  Express Transport is simply a direct response to this customer feedback and will be an expansion of Veolia’s existing contracted sedan transportation services. Additionally, we have learned that the transportation our guests receive to and from the hotel has a direct impact on their overall experience, and it influences their impressions of the entire National Harbor destination and greater Prince George’s County.  For this reason, we must ensure that our guests will have the option of utilizing a safe, reliable and enjoyable personal-transportation service.  We are also delighted that Veolia will be utilizing a fleet of eco-friendly, hybrid vehicles for this service, and we are certain our guests will appreciate this green approach as well.

“We also believe our guests will appreciate Express Transport for its up front, flat-rate fares, which are fully disclosed to passengers prior to boarding the vehicles and in many cases, offer a savings over traditional taxi fares.  For example, the new flat-rate fare from Gaylord National Resort to Reagan National Airport will be $22 each way during non-rush hour times. Guests will be able to pay their fare via credit card or charge it to their final guest room bill – two additional conveniences our guests have been requesting.

“Moving forward, our guests will still have the option of choosing whichever transportation service they wish to utilize – whether it be a luxury black-sedan car service, an economical private-car service such a Express Transport, a group shuttle or a traditional taxi operator. This has always been the policy since we opened in 2008, and it will continue in the future.”

And in response to The Taxi Link’s question about taxi drivers being told that as of June 1 they will no longer be allowed to pay a monthly fee to park at the garage directly across the street, Gaylord National wrote:

“The parking garage located across the street from the hotel where the taxi drivers stage is not owned or operated by Gaylord National. We do not believe that taxi drivers are being “evicted” from the National Harbor garage, and we encourage you to reach out to The Peterson Companies (management of National Harbor) for clarification on this matter and with any other questions regarding their facility.”

The Taxi Link is sponsored by The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers and airs Saturday 7-8 p.m. on WUST 1120 AM. The show is hosted by TheFightBack’s Pete Tucker and D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission member and ANC 1B chairman Tony Norman

* The initial post incorrectly spelled the name of Fisseha Tesfaye.

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