Sherwood’s Notebook: Call Me a (Colorful) Cab

1210 dc taxis
Tom Sherwood


That’s just one of the words Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh used Monday. “Ghastly” was another. She was describing the various color schemes being proposed that all new D.C. taxicabs would have to adopt sometime next year.

Postings on Twitter and other reactions weren’t much better.

“Sorry, really do not like any of the options …”

“These color schemes are awful.”

“Is this a joke?”

“These designs are pretty ugly and amateurish.”

You get the idea.

And why have such busy striping instead of one or two solid colors? The design just makes it more costly to paint or repaint. Lime green and white? That’s not exactly a power combination for the nation’s capital. It feels more like a tropical drink.

“I’m delighted to open these proposed color schemes for public feedback,” Mayor Vincent Gray said at a news conference at the Verizon Center, where some mock-up cabs were displayed. “We intend for D.C. to establish an identity and image that will set a new standard for public vehicles for hire.”

The sample cabs also will be displayed later at Union Station and at the convention center for the annual auto show in February.

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, whose ward encompasses downtown, said the city should pick simple, clear colors that anyone — local or out-of-towners — can spot.

Taxi commission chair Ron Linton is striving mightily to bring order to the loosely regulated taxi operations in the city. He’s toughened inspections and has hackers on the street writing up violators and getting illegal cabs off the roads.

And all of that is well and good.

But sampling the initial reactions to the color palette, we were thinking that with all the graphic artists, illustrators, interior designers and architects in town to consult — probably for free — why pick such lame color schemes?

It’s partly because running a cab system is different from designing one.

And there is a whole bureaucratic scheme to settling on the color. A committee of the taxi commission will report to the full commission, which will hold public hearings and then vote on the color(s). Then the commission will post proposed regulations for public comment. Also weighing in will be City Administrator Allen Lew, D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan, the mayor and even the council if it wants to get involved.

The various colors are displayed on the taxi commission website. Check out or visit

You may want to vote on this.

As of now, there is a moratorium until June 30 on any new cabs in the District. The new color scheme should be decided by late spring or early summer.

Clean, safe, reliable cabs are good goals for the city. Just don’t make the passengers have to wear sunglasses or blinders.

■ What about cop cars? The Notebook will take a moment here to suggest that the city consider new paint designs for our police cars. They were painted red, white and blue under former Police Chief Charles Ramsey. But there is a circus-like design that many people have criticized. As one graphic design friend of the Notebook said, police cars should evoke power and authority, not Ringling Brothers.

■ Anita Bonds wins. D.C. Democratic State Committee Chair Anita Bonds easily won a temporary seat on the D.C. Council Monday night.

Bonds is a veteran political activist and corporate executive with Fort Myer Construction. She was elected by the party organization that met at Catholic University. She will serve until a special election on April 23 to fill the remaining term of Phil Mendelson, who was elected chairman in November.

■ Che Brown charged. The brother of disgraced former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown is the latest to be charged in the federal probe into the city’s ethics scandals.

Brown, like his brother, was charged with lying on loan documents rather than any specific political or public corruption. Che Brown is expected to plead guilty to a felony for inflating his income by $35,000 on loan documents required by federal law. The former chairman Kwame — who’s now on probation — pleaded guilty to inflating his income by $50,000 in a separate case.

Prosecutors are continuing to look at Kwame Brown’s 2008 re-election campaign for his at-large seat on the Council. Several hundred thousand dollars was raised and spent without being properly recorded, officials say. Both Che and Kwame Brown were involved with that campaign.

■ Filling up. We do have some positive things to say this week.

You can’t help being amazed if you drive by the old convention center site on 9th Street downtown.

More than the skeletons of several new buildings are up already, and you can see the outline of 10th Street, which will be reopened when the surrounding construction is complete. That block of 10th has been closed since the early 1980s.

Some of the early-phase buildings are being leased already for occupancy next summer. The development company recently announced that Covington & Burling, a prominent law firm, has agreed to become an anchor tenant in the space. The firm will take 420,000 square feet when it moves in the summer of 2014.

The entire project is called City Center DC. It is one of the largest urban development projects in the nation, a mixed-use project with housing, commercial and retail. And it will include a small park to help keep the area green.

■ Staying put. And we were happy to see that the financially troubled Corcoran Gallery of Art is staying put. The Washington Post was reporting Monday night that the museum’s board of directors has canceled its outreach to buyers.

The iconic beaux-arts building on 17th Street across from the White House has been the home of the Corcoran since 1897. Board chair Harry Hopper told The Post on Monday that, “We’re comfortable that there are enough paths to stay in the building.”

Contact Us