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Five Months In, the Hail-A-Taxi Program Looks For a Jump Start

By Samantha Page
Published: Monday, December 08, 2008, at 04:02PM
Councilmembers Perry and Greuel, DCBID's Carol Shatz, cab drivers and organizers at the Hail-A-Taxi Samantha Page [Flickr]

Councilmembers Jan Perry and Wendy Greuel stand with the Downtown Center BID's Carol Schatz, L.A. Live's Lisa Herzlich and cabbies at this morning's event.

The Hail-a-Taxi pilot launched July 31, but there hasn't been a lot of hailing going on Downtown. Five months in, most cabs still end up sitting at taxi stands waiting for airport fares.

This morning, Councilmembers Jan Perry and Wendy Greuel joined the Downtown Center BID and AEG in giving cabbies a free meal and a pitch to start cruising around Downtown. The event was the kickoff to "Taxicab Appreciation Week," a campaign focused on both the drivers and their potential riders.

The mid-day event, brainchild of DCBID's V.P. of Economic Development Hal Bastian, had attracted over 300 cabbies as it neared its 1pm close. The message Bastian was offering was simple: yes, drivers will spend some money on gas while roaming around Downtown, but they'll make it up in small fares.

Councilwoman Perry echoed that sentiment. "Your availability is to everyone's benefit," she told taxi drivers who came to the event.

The pilot program is set to expire in January, but Perry said that it will likely be extended for at least another six months. Perry called the use of taxis in downtown a "psychological shift" that will take some time to implement.

Taxi drivers are no longer restricted from stopping to pick up passengers who aren't waiting at one of the taxi stands. Carol Schatz, head of DCBID, said the public awareness component of the program, which kicked off today, would help educate drivers about "the value of getting out of those hotel lines."

The program is also aimed at residents and visitors to downtown. "We need to get the residents out there waving!" Shatz said. Educational signs went up around Downtown recently, and will stay up for the next few weeks.

Sam Jeldi, director of operations for L.A. Transportation Group, said that the event was "absolutely going to help" to educate cab drivers about the new rules.

As for getting the people on board, "when they realize they can come Downtown and hail a cab, and it's safe, more people will come," Jeldi said.

The event was sponsored by AEG, which owns the Staples Center and L.A. Live. L.A. Live managing director Lisa Herzlich hopes the program will encourage people to come to their new facilities.

"Downtown is going to transform into something we never thought it would," she said.

Perry said that the Council would re-evaluate the pilot program sometime next year. Until then, feel free to wave.

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