Washington, DC, is committed to adopting more environmentally-friendly transportation options. The Department of For-Hire Vehicles (DFHV) has encouraged for-hire operators to transition to electric vehicles (EVs). Currently, 159 EVs are in service as taxis. DFHV has awarded $377,000 in grants during Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 to 57 vehicle owners to support this electrifying initiative.
In partnership with the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation and Union Station Parking Garage, two Fast Chargers for the exclusive use of DFHV-registered taxis have been installed. Our agency is a member of the Inter-Agency Working Group created by the Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) to coordinate the efforts to explore public-private partnerships. The objective is to expand the infrastructure to support EVs by increasing the number of charging stations in the District. Guidance is being given to Electrify America that plans to install multiple charging stations nationwide.
Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Hearings
As I recently testified before the Committee on Business and Economic Development chaired by Council-member Kenyan McDuffie, Mayor Bowser’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget will provide the Department of For-Hire Vehicles with the resources to achieve inclusive prosperity by meeting the administration’s goals to support DC Values through transparency, accountability, efficiency, and economic growth. The priority for our agency is to ensure fair industry competition and excellent passenger experiences. The FY 2018 budget will allocate resources to: (1) improving transportation equity; (2) creating new business opportunities; and (3) leveraging commercially-available technology to help reduce operating costs.
We will continue to encourage the adoption of both wheelchair accessible and electric vehicles with competitive grants and incentives; and we are excited about the transition from the legacy taximeter and expensive credit card readers to lower cost app-based systems called digital taxicab solutions or DTS. The DTS will feature mobile payment, built- in GPS , automatic transfer of trip data, and dynamic pricing for street hails. Another key benefit is the reduction of operating costs by an estimated $2,000 per vehicle.
Get Ready For the Future
The future is now. It is incumbent on the for-hire industry to recognize that the urgency to adapt is critical to keeping up with progress. Technology has disrupted the traditional method seeking a for-hire ride by shifting public preference from raising a hand to using fingers to press an app. However, the ability to summon a ride on-demand does not change the basic equation that riders are seeking transportation from Point A to Point B and have chosen a for-hire vehicle rather than another means of transit. Passengers still expect an excellent customer experience.
The role of the Department of For-Hire Vehicles is to protect public interest and ensure a fair competitive marketplace. As such, we are working to decrease the cost to operate and reduce the burden of regulations on taxis. The influx of private vehicles (an estimated 170,000) and the uneven regulatory environment are priority issues on which DFHV is focusing. We encourage stakeholder engagement and public feedback to help assess habits and demands. It is clear that data analysis and innovation will impact the implementation of programs and policies that can effectively respond to the uncertainty of the future.
Taking the Pole Position to Make Cities Sustainable
The evolution of the transportation ecosystem is impacted by its energy needs. Gasoline-powered vehicles are still the most widely used means of for-hire transportation; however climate change is a threat to livable and sustainable cities. The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases. DFHV has taken steps to make DC a sustainable city through the Electric Vehicle (EV) Grant Program which accelerated the transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. Today, we proudly have approximately 120 electric for-hire vehicles in service; which is the most for-hire EVs of any U.S. city.
We are collaborating with the Department of Energy & Environment, the Department of General Services and the Department of Parks & Recreation to increase the number of fast-charging stations. Recently, we met with transportation representatives from federal agencies and private sector organizations to discuss preparations for the future by identifying cost and energy savings to reduce greenhouse gas production. We want the industry to provide excellent customer experiences while being good stewards of the environment.
Streamlining the Application Process
The Department of For-Hire Vehicles continues to leverage technology to benefit operators and clients. The objective is to develop efficient methods that will result in saving time and money. The agency has implemented an online process to submit One Stop Forms, apply for the Certificate of Operating Authority and receive Special Event Permits. Our Vehicle Inspection Officers now have the capability to accept electronic insurance cards as proof that an operator is in compliance with the requirement to have valid insurance.
DFHV is reviewing new ideas, programs and technology to determine the effects on the transportation ecosystem. With increased competition that includes technology companies, auto manufacturers and private vehicle operators as well as passengers seeking better service at lower prices, the economic pressure on the for-hire vehicle industry is great. Thus, we intend to place a priority on fulfilling our objective to set a regulatory environment that promotes safety, allows for innovation, decreases the burden of regulations while ensuring compliance and encourages excellent service.