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All Hail Downtown

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, July 31, 2008, at 04:32PM
Hail Downtown Ed Fuentes

Councilmembers Jan Perry and Wendy Greuel curbside.

It’s the first official day of the six-month Hail-a-Taxi pilot program designed to encourage cab drivers to roam Downtown and Hollywood streets for passengers. This morning, taxis were circling Walt Disney Concert Hall like sharks hoping to be the first ceremonial cab to be hailed from a restricted Downtown Los Angeles curb.

The program, called HAT, gives cab drivers greater flexibility to pick up and drop off passengers. Many consider it a major step in making Downtown and Hollywood transportation comparable to other international cities.

“It’s simple,” says Councilwoman Jan Perry, who authored the motion and was prepared to hail a cab with a USC Trojan foam finger. “We need to afford residents and tourists the flexibility to use every form of transportation option.”

There are still some restrictions. Bus zones are not to be used as a pick up or drop off point, and passengers can be fined for stepping off the curb to hail a taxi. Still, Wendy Greuel, Councilwoman and Chair of the City’s Transportation Committee, notes it’s a win-win for Angelenos and will decrease traffic in two of the most gridlocked areas of the city.

Outside the press conference perimeter, out-of-towners Ann and Joseph Logan were waiting to tour Disney Hall. They didn’t know the cab drivers risked fines for point-to-point fares. “Last week, we tried to flag down a taxi,” said Joseph. “We thought they were rude to just drive right by us. This should have been done sooner.”

There has to be HATs off to DCBID, in particular Hal Bastian, who first advocated for the change. Bastian was also ready this morning, skillfully taking his hand to wave in the next driver before leaning in to ask for a ride.

Others asked him to recreate the moment and he did so quickly. He then took off his coat to enter the cab saying “That’s all you get!” Bastian was in a hurry, after all. He’s been waiting three years for this ride.

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