The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


DC unveils 4 taxi livery options

DC has unveiled 4 options for a uniform citywide taxicab paint scheme. DCist's Martin Austermuhle is live-tweeting the presentation.

Here they are:

Photo by Martin Austermuhle.

Although it's not online yet, officials say there will be a survey on asking for feedback. After that, the city will presumably pick a livery and set a timeline for adoption.

It's a little unclear, but while this shows both 4 liveries and 4 possible vehicle types, all vehicles will have the same livery.

What do you think? We have differing views.

Choose red for a consistent brand

by Dan Malouff

Back in 2009, I said that by not having a uniform color scheme, DC is losing out on an important branding opportunity. New York's yellow taxis are one of the strongest images associated with that city. Since DC has as many cabs per capita as New York, the same could be true here.

Red is the natural choice. We want something distinctly different from New York, and clearly associated with DC. Since red is already the primary color of DC Circulator, Capital Bikeshare, and the future DC Streetcars, it makes sense to use the same colors on taxis. Doing so evokes a uniform brand for the city's entire transportation system, across multiple modes.

Photo by Martin Austermuhle.

Two of the options released today use red. One of them, pictured here, uses the same shade as Circulator and Bikeshare, and includes a similar yellow stripe down the side. Of the 4 options, this is the best. But it would be better with red and white reversed, so that red is the dominant color.

Ideally I'd prefer a simple solid red, with maybe some yellow highlights. But since there are a lot of solid red private cars out there that aren't taxis (which isn't a problem for New York's yellow), I'm willing to concede that something a little more complex is necessary here. If we want red, it may need to be multi-colored.

Make it more professional, or choose none at all

by David Alpert

Dan is right that it's not a bad idea to evoke the Circulator and DC Streetcar branding. However, where the Circulator and streetcar are elegant, this looks amateurish.

Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.

The Circulator and streetcar have delicate, curving yellow lines, while this has a thick, straight one. On those, the yellow line is the interface between red and white; here, the yellow line is its own separate piece with white between it and red, giving this far more interfaces between colors.

Dan is right that red and white is better than the other set of colors, yellow and green. That is Arlington Transit's color scheme; why should DC taxis look like Arlington buses?

Having the white on top means that from the front, most taxis will just look white, which defeats much of the purpose of giving them a uniform color. The Taxicab Commission could fix this one point by flipping red and white, as Dan suggests, but that won't make the design attractive.

I generally don't think we need a uniform brand at all. This push for a uniform color seems to be regulating for regulating's sake. If we are set on it, though, either the design has to look more professional, like the Circulator, or be much more simple, such as one color or two in a simple configuration.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post
David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


Add a comment »

I agree with David Alpert. Mirror the design being used by the Circulator & streetcar!

by Jay on Dec 10, 2012 1:37 pm • linkreport

You don't need a design at all. You just need a color. Or even two colors.

There's a reason many cabs today do not have fancy designs - they're expensive to get re-painted in case of an accident or a fender bender. If you have multiple colors, you keep your various body panels solid:

High design? No. But it's simple and practical and stands out against any other private vehicle on the streets.

If you go with a single, solid color, then you must go the NYC route and pick something bright and obvious, like Yellow.

by Alex B. on Dec 10, 2012 1:38 pm • linkreport

I think the primary function of a unified color scheme should be to make licensed taxis easily distinguishable & identifyable as a taxi to those who want to use them. I don't think red necessarily does a good job of that, as red is a common non-taxi car color, and "branding opportunities" shouldn't be the primary consideration.

I'd like to see the cabs painted a distinctive solid color (e.g.: yellow), which would be cheaper than the proposed multi-color designs. In addition, with a lower-cost paint job, it'd be easier to get existing taxis to switch to the new color scheme.

Either way, all the proposed designs are hideous.

by Matt Ashburn on Dec 10, 2012 1:40 pm • linkreport

Why do we care about being different from New York? It's not like people are going to need to differentiate.
In fact, solid yellow would be recognizable for people who travel to both cities.

These color schemes all look like various emergency/utility response vehicles.

Speaking of confusion with emergency vehicles, I hope they'll get rid of the "Call 911" signs on top. That's very confusing for international visitors.

by Novanglus on Dec 10, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport

You don't need a design at all. You just need a color. Or even two colors.

The peace I've made with this push for a unified color scheme/design is that it will give the city council something to regulate to make them feel like they're "done something" while at the same time doing as little regulatory damage as possible.

by JustMe on Dec 10, 2012 1:48 pm • linkreport

Obviously design by DC government committee.
One color please.
Dark brown would be elegant.

by TaxiRider on Dec 10, 2012 1:52 pm • linkreport

The designs that use multiple colors split by body panels look awful. Yes, there's a reason why they do it, but looks incredibly low-budget.

I can see why complicated designs are out, but why not go with a solid stripe or something? Most of the designs here also seem to make the most vulnerable parts of the cars a solid color, which seems like a good idea.

This design from China is simple, but elegant.

It also should be possible to apply a portion of the branding with decals, which could cut down on paint costs further.

by andrew on Dec 10, 2012 1:54 pm • linkreport

Somebody at DDOT was watching too much Jurassic Park this weekend. Any of these color schemes look familiar?

by Adam L on Dec 10, 2012 1:58 pm • linkreport

At first, I was all for a unified color scheme because it does distinguish a city taxi from a gypsy cab, some other non-official cab like Uber, or an Arlington Red Top that happens to be dropping someone off in DC (but can't pick up anyone, so don't bother trying to hail it).

But, if we're going to go with some complicated color scheme that will be expensive for operators and an onerous regulation, let's just drop the idea. I say go with a simple solid yellow color or no standard at all. Many other cities have solid yellow taxis and no one confuses them for NYC. Usually there are a lot of other indicators that tell you what city you're in. ;)

I also feel like a "yellow cab" has a universal understood meaning that is useful for out-of-towners.

by Falls Church on Dec 10, 2012 1:59 pm • linkreport

At least supply a pic of the Crown Vic!

No good having images of cars that make up a small fraction of the cab fleet.

by goldfish on Dec 10, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

Sorry, meant the Taxi Commission, not DDOT... though they probably do too.

by Adam L on Dec 10, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

I really wish they would focus on driver safety, customer service training, and enforcement actions against discriminatory drivers and unsafe/poorly maintained vehicles. I don't care what the vehicles look like. This is truly useless fluff to divert attention away from the real problems the Taxicab Commission & Council should be focusing on regarding our cab problems.

by ontarioroader on Dec 10, 2012 2:05 pm • linkreport

"I generally don't think we need a uniform brand at all. This push for a uniform color seems to be regulating for regulating's sake."

Dave has hit the central issue. The only reason for a uniform color is to make it easier to enforce MD and VA cabs picking people up (illegally) and we should be promoting that.

by charlie on Dec 10, 2012 2:06 pm • linkreport

What about advertising. When the Circulator came online we were told that they wouldn't allow advertising on the outside of the buses because it would cover up the paint scheme and interfere with the branding. So the price we pay for this sort of design nonsense is the loss of revenue from advertising.

Will we see rules prohibiting ads on the new "branded" cabs?

by dcdriver on Dec 10, 2012 2:07 pm • linkreport

Ultraviolet. Let's see New York top that!

by Adam on Dec 10, 2012 2:08 pm • linkreport

Many other cities have solid yellow taxis and no one confuses them for NYC. Usually there are a lot of other indicators that tell you what city you're in. ;)

Indeed. A simple image search for "taxi cab" has a certain color theme to it - but I can't quite put my finger on what it is...

by Alex B. on Dec 10, 2012 2:10 pm • linkreport

Wow, those are all hideous. Solid yellow seems like such a no-brainer to me, but if that's out, then I'd choose solid red with yellow stripes.

by Colleen on Dec 10, 2012 2:11 pm • linkreport

As someone with poor vision who this excessive regulation purports to try and help with identifying a taxi... I happen to think the hodgepodge of colors we now have is a better "brand" for D.C.

I can easily distinguish between a Diamond Cab, a Yellow Cab (That's actually orange) a Dupont Cab with their pink, Lincoln Cab, and Silver Cab etc... What on earth would the Silver Cab Assoc. do? We don't need a uniform color, period.

by @SamuelMoore on Dec 10, 2012 2:20 pm • linkreport

I rather doubt that anyone in DDOT will be thrilled about having their hard won reputation for quality diluted by cross branding with a bunch of hacks. Pun intended.

by Mark on Dec 10, 2012 2:23 pm • linkreport

Why in the world would a taxi need more than one color in the first place? Who are these new regulations supposed to help anyway? On the surface, it doesn't serve a need for most of DC's residents. When I go home down south, taxis are yellow. We don't need crayon-box taxis..just one solid color. All the discussion about "thick lines" vs. whatever line is way above what's necessary to this discussion. All of the options above are hideous and they certainly don't need to look anything like the circulator.

BTW, it makes sense (for us busybodies) to start talking about plans before they're officially released, but the pics above? Could we not have done a bit better? It looks like pics of a street sign. So are the dangers on live-tweeting...:)

by HogWash on Dec 10, 2012 2:32 pm • linkreport

These are all awful. Horrible, in fact. And I agree wholeheartedly with whoever said above that showing the designs on the four least popular types of vehicles in the taxi fleet is exceptionally stupid. Paint the designs on some old Crown Vics and Towncars and then we can see what 90% of the fleet will look like.

And while you're repainting designs on the right cars, paint them in the red, silver and yellow from the streetcars! That looks *good*. These designs look *bad*. Hire whoever did the streetcar design to do cabs too. Let them modify their own concept to fit a different vehicle.

I was so excited for these designs to be released today - too bad they just suck.

by ShawGuy on Dec 10, 2012 2:37 pm • linkreport

Yellow, yellow, YELLOW!! There's a reason that most places with a uniform taxicab color use yellow. It stands out from other vehicles, making it easier for people to hail a cab. It's a regulation with a genuine public policy rationale. "Branding" our cabs differently because of an NYC Inferiority Complex does not serve any useful purpose. In fact, it will have exactly the opposite effect by causing riders to take greater notice of the differences between our cabs and those in NYC (or any other major city). Is this something we really want visitors doing?

by Jimmy on Dec 10, 2012 3:01 pm • linkreport

I have to agree that these are awful. The designs are amateurish and even the "DCab" logo stamped on each vehicle is awkward. How does one read that out loud? "D-Cab?" I applaud the city and tax commission for attempting to brand the fleet, but creating a terrible brand is not an improvement. Back to the drawing board, please.

by Dno on Dec 10, 2012 3:04 pm • linkreport

Paint color is not really the problem with DC's Taxi Cabs.
Safety, cleanliness, price, racism, driver knowledge, fair fares...
Why not institute a mandatory exam to test knowledge of the city (like London), standardize the car (again like the UK and with something safe and fuel efficient), and increase the safety of cabs(passengers and other users of the road).

If they are going for a color - yellow works. the UK has black cabs we have yellow.

I think the color scheme is purposefully complicated so any of the needed regulations get delayed and fares can be increased to cover the cost of this obscene livery.

by andy2 on Dec 10, 2012 3:08 pm • linkreport

@ goldfish and ShawGuy

A reason for NOT showing the proposed color schemes on a Crown Vic or a Towncar is that both vehicles have been discontinued -- the Towncar in 2011 and the Crown Vic in 2012. Now that I think of it, this is another argument in favor of using a single, recognizable taxi-related color, like yellow. As the vehicles used for taxis become increasingly dissimilar, a uniform color would make it easier to distinguish them from private vehicles.

by Christine on Dec 10, 2012 3:08 pm • linkreport

I just want to join the chorus to echo the opinions:
a) These designs are all hideous
b) The whole idea seems like regulation for regulation's sake
c) The circulators and streetcars look pretty, but there's every reason why DDOT wouldn't want to have its services confused with those of the cab operators.
d) A uniform color scheme destroys the need for cab companies to compete for goodwill from hail customers.
e) If there absolutely has to be a uniform design, it would be nice to reference the circulaors, streetcars and CaBi, but see item c
f) There is nothing wrong with cabs being yellow.
g) The cars modeled are not the cars you will typically see this scheme on, although I do hope to see a lot more MV-1s as taxis.

by Lucre on Dec 10, 2012 3:08 pm • linkreport

@Alex B hit the nail on the head. Do a Google Image search for "taxi cab" and see what you get. It's actually far more overwhelming than I expected! Quite simply, taxis have already been "branded" with a particular color...

by Jimmy on Dec 10, 2012 3:08 pm • linkreport

As someone who semi-frequently uses cabs in DC, I don't think I've ever had difficulty distinguishing cabs from other DC vehicles, given that they all already have to have top lights, so I'm pretty perplexed as to what this accomplishes besides wasting either cab driver or taxpayer money (or both). Don't city officials have anything better to do?

by Andrew Pendleton on Dec 10, 2012 3:08 pm • linkreport

Lots of good comments. I used to/still do mostly agree with David Alpert that a branding scheme isn't necessary. HOWEVER, there is no question that one color, easily distinguishable, makes it very easy for people to figure out what are cabs.

I agree that red, despite the links to Circulator and cabi, probably isn't a good color as it's nonobvious and people have learned elsewhere that solid yellow/off yellow, orange tend to be the colors that cabs typically use. It will take longer than the period that people are visiting in DC for them to figure out that "red" is the distinguishing color for common carrier transit that is from "DC" as opposed to colors used by other services in the region.

There was a letter somewhere by a taxi driver for Yellow Cab or something stating that the black and orange design they use is very distinctive and communicates cab. I agree. However, the issue is that for most people (excepting Arlington Red Top) don't see any distinguishment between the various cab companies in that mostly, they all suck. While there are particularly good cabbies, there is no way to distinguish them from the companies they work for...

So this rises to the level of a decision made for overall mobility planning purposes. (Although yes, as ontarioroader pointed out, and I have written as well, this is hardly the uppermost priority for taxi service planning and what we really need is a deep and rigorous plan for taxi service, probably too include eliminating the taxi commission as a separate body and incorporating it into DDOT.)

It's not just the color, also the logo. The sticker used to signify "certified cab" for DC in use currently isn't particularly obvious and is especially placed in a non obvious location (behind the back passenger side door window) whereas the "T" logo on the taxis in NYC is placed prominently on the front passenger side door (probably on the driver side door too, I didn't really pay attention).

As Karina Ricks, then planning director of DDOT, is alleged to have said to the crew dealing with Cabi ... when given design choices, "I hate them all, just pick one."

But yes, subtle is too subtle, although I like the Chinese example posted by Andrew is very nice.

by Richard Layman on Dec 10, 2012 3:11 pm • linkreport

".. even the "DCab" logo stamped on each vehicle is awkward. How does one read that out loud? 'D-Cab?'"

DC Ab. Because riding in a taxi in stop-and-speed DC traffic is a great ab workout.

by Novanglus on Dec 10, 2012 3:13 pm • linkreport

I liked the idea of red. Now I don't care, as long as we don't have ANY of these god-awful designs prowling the streets in large numbers. Ugh. What a waste of time and energy and effort.

And @dcdriver, who said Will we see rules prohibiting ads on the new "branded" cabs?

Uh, how much advertising do you see on cabs already? I see virtually none ever. And if I have a product to advertise, last thing I want to do is associate it with the horrible taxi system in DC.

by MetroDerp on Dec 10, 2012 3:13 pm • linkreport

Like virtually everyone else, I think this is kind of pointless, and I think if there was a reason to go with one color it should yellow.

However, one of the things I remember from the debate is that they didn't want to consider yellow because that was associated with a particular brand of taxi and might be seen as favoring them. I don't actually understand that because DC Yellow Cab actually has orange and black cars, but this was the purported reason.

by Kate W. on Dec 10, 2012 3:14 pm • linkreport

I think the city should find a new color scheme for fire engines. Red is too easily associated with FDNY.

by Novanglus on Dec 10, 2012 3:17 pm • linkreport

Make them all red (dc transit + sports teams) or all yellow (universal "cab" color) and hire a real designer to come up with the DC Cab logo. Just when you get excited about DC doing something progressive and cool they go and do something like this and screw it all up.

by mattCampy on Dec 10, 2012 3:29 pm • linkreport

I actually kind of like the designs in the abstract (the red ones more than the green/yellow ones). It's just that they seem impractical as cab colors in that any body damage will be hard to fix. I'm surprised no one has brought up that the one David picked looks really similar to the livery used on MetroAccess vans (with a yellow stripe instead of blue).

by Steven Yates on Dec 10, 2012 3:59 pm • linkreport

Everyone already knows what a REAL D.C. Cab looks like:

by Tom Veil on Dec 10, 2012 4:09 pm • linkreport

Here's my thought: paint the main body of the cabs red (roof, hood, trunk/hatch, fenders), the passenger doors that silvery-grey used on the Circulator, and then have a standardized yellow box with black text that includes the name of the cab company and phone number. In this way, you could have a color scheme that matches the Circulator without taxi owners having to worry about expensive, complex respray costs. Also, I think there should be some flexibility in the red base color, so that a cab operator buying Toyota Camries can simply chose that OEM's "Barcelona Red Metallic" while someone buying Ford Transit Connects can simply do "Race Red."

by Circle Thomas on Dec 10, 2012 4:10 pm • linkreport

The logo is hideous. Why not incorporate the DC flag instead of the geographic shape of DC?

by 7r3y3r on Dec 10, 2012 4:15 pm • linkreport

Solid colors only because its cost effective. I prefer red.

All vehicles should without a doubt be 100% natural gas from the outset. Like it or not, natural gas will be extremely cheap for the foreseeable future. This too keeps costs down and helps develop alternative fueling stations in the District.

All cabs should have clear bright led lights indicated whether they are/not available.

All cabs should accept metro cards as a form of payment.

by jason on Dec 10, 2012 9:23 pm • linkreport

Who came up with this idea, Kim Jong Un? You could all wear Mao suits, too, eh? If you want people to be able to identify official cabs have them post a prominent official tag. I agree the proposed combinations are vile, and I doubt they'd improve visibility. If you must have a standard scheme I recommend Beck's in Toronto: fluorescent orange and medium green (Google it, they're sharp).

by John FitzGerald on Dec 10, 2012 11:21 pm • linkreport

These are too complicated and will be expensive to apply and repair. Money is carbon so that makes no sense. The best ideas are ones that won’t make the city look trashy or add excess labor to the application.

by Alex on Dec 11, 2012 7:11 am • linkreport

What's wrong with yellow? People associate yellow with taxicabs. The cab company in my hometown in Ohio uses yellow cabs and no one thinks they're in NYC. And the comments about body panels being easier/cheaper to repair or replace when they're a single color are absolutely right.

by ksu499 on Dec 11, 2012 7:54 am • linkreport

The voting site is up now. Oddly, it's configured in a way that allows you to vote "NO" on all of the proposed color combinations. Perhaps if a majority votes "no" on every option they'll reconsider?

by Jimmy on Dec 11, 2012 9:37 am • linkreport

The voting site has several pages of options, all just as bad. I'd be tempted to go for the all black one (just like London!) -- except DC cab drivers aren't trained and tested for driving skills the way London hacks are, and we need them in bright colors for safety!

If they're going to let us vote, they should make all-yellow (amber, really) one of the options.

by Novanglus on Dec 11, 2012 10:05 am • linkreport

Just make them all yellow and get it over with.

No, that is not about imitating New York. Lots of other cities have yellow cabs, too. New York didn't even mandate their cabs to be yellow until the 1960s.

The idea of a Yellow Cab originated with John Hertz (he of the Hertz rental car business) in Chicago in 1905. He picked yellow because you could see it from a distance. He then started making his own vehicles for taxi service, and selling and franchising them out (yellow paint and all) to other cities.

This is as recognizable of a standard in the US as you will find.

by Alex B. on Dec 11, 2012 10:26 am • linkreport

The red, white, and blue cab might actually be confused with a police car. And the red ones look a bit like some of the ambulances - especially the private ones. And the LAST thing you want is someone with low vision or someone at night hailing down a police car, thinking it's a cab.

There is nothing wrong with yellow. It is known to just about everyone as the color for cabs. And with tens of millions of visitors in this town each year, that should mean something.

Make it yellow and stop with all the nonsense.

by Mike S. on Dec 11, 2012 12:55 pm • linkreport

Glad to see that DC's taxi fleet is now so safe, efficient and generally well-run that the taxi commission has the excess time and budget to address trivial issues like this. Oh wait, never mind, most DC cabs are still incompetently operated death traps and getting a driver to take you east of the river (or pick you up at all depending on your ethnicity) is still practically impossible. I guess the taxi commission has just decided to continue rearranging deck chairs instead of actually, you know, doing its job. But let's try not to think about that and instead focus on whether that Crown Vic (which last passed a safety inspection in 1987) has the same color scheme as the streetcars that might, or might not, ever actually start running.

by Jacob on Dec 11, 2012 1:59 pm • linkreport

I think out of all the options given on their Facebook page, the black bottom, grey top, and yellow stripe is the least bad.

by Michael on Dec 11, 2012 3:25 pm • linkreport

I just came from an afternoon walk on L Street and saw:

Orange Cab
Silver Cab
Black w/Orange/red stripes (chrysler 300)
Blue Cab
Beige-looking cab

The commonality amongst them all is that I instantly recognized them as cabs.

by HogWash on Dec 11, 2012 3:44 pm • linkreport

I agree it seems like regulation for regulation's sake. The current multi-color cab standard isn't hurting ANYONE. Leave it as-is, geniuses.

by Grumble on Dec 11, 2012 4:33 pm • linkreport

I'm sorry maybe I'm old-fashioned (at 28) but in my opinion all cabs should be a solid yellow like they are in NYC. I'm so sick of DC having no consistency at all with cabs. It's impossible to spot one from far away because they all look different. So once they repaint them all solid yellow, they should also enforce the requirement that they take credit cards (or make such a requirement if one does not already exist).

by Matt on Dec 12, 2012 3:18 pm • linkreport

You know how I spot cabs? I look for the light on top that says "TAXI". The color of the car is trivial.

by 7r3y3r on Dec 13, 2012 10:46 am • linkreport

> You know how I spot cabs? I look for the light on top that
> says "TAXI". The color of the car is trivial.

Or in DC, a sign that says "CALL 911".

by Novanglus on Dec 13, 2012 10:52 am • linkreport

Oh well, aren't you a smart ***... not everyone has perfect vision and the body of the car is much larger and easier to spot from far away than a tiny little thing on the roof. Feel good about your insensitive attempt at humor?

by Matt on Dec 13, 2012 11:31 am • linkreport

Do you know why cabs have the light on the top? Because it's the easiest and most noticable way to differentiate cabs from regular cars.

Here's how it works:

Cabs need only be visible when they are unoccupied and available for hire. When they are in this mode/status, the cab driver illuminates the lamp on the roof of their cab. This makes it so that people on the street can see the cab from far away, in the dark, or even while the body of the cab is in line behind other cars and thus shielded from view. The color of the cab only helps the one of those instances. Color doesn't help at night, doesn't help when the cab is behind other cars, and doesn't change when occupied. It only helps you differentiate it from other cars from far away. And even then I'd argue that a lit lamp on the roof is more distinguishable than color. But that's just me, with my "perfect vision" (not really, though - thanks for assuming.)

by 7r3y3r on Dec 13, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us