Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: That will cost you more


Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.
Taxi rate increase uncertain: The proposed fare increases for DC cabs faced stiff opposition at a hearing yesterday. Many skeptics oppose fare increases until service quality improves. (DCist)

Is a Metro fare hike on the way?: Metro faces a $124 million budget shortfall next year mostly due to increases in costs. If regional jurisdictions can't pony up the different, the agency may have to hike fares or cut service. (Post)

Child poverty rates climb regionally: Child poverty increased all across the region over the past few years. DC has by far the highest number, with 20,872 (31%) of 5-to-17-year-olds living in poverty. (Examiner)

WMATA tries to lure federal tenants: WMATA may partner with GSA to bring development to 4 metro stations. The agency would lease land to GSA near the Anacostia, Naylor Road, Branch Avenue, and Huntington stations. (Post)

Metro suicides failing lately: Several recent suicide attempts on Metro have failed. Either the trains were far away or stopped quickly enough. In one case, a man jumped from a parking garage and survived. (Examiner)

Thanksgiving enforcement jumps: Over the Thanksgiving weekend, 6 people died on Maryland roadways while 9 died on Virginia's. Police arrested or cited more than 22,000 people in both states over the weekend. (Examiner)

Montgomery challenges ballot question: The county eliminated collective bargaining for police over management decisions. The union wants to take the ban to the ballot, hoping voters will overturn it. The council is suing to stop the measure. (Examiner)

And...: The Post remembers that it's a local paper, not just a national paper. (Post) ... DC upholds sex-segregated dorms at Catholic University. (Washington Times) ... Mt. Vernon Triangle, once a land of parking lots, is finally filling with a critical mass of development. (DCMud)

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Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 

Comments

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No link present in the final one by DC MUD about Mt. Vernon Sq.

by Canaan on Nov 30, 2011 9:29 am • linkreport

I use cabs pretty frequently because (surprise!) Metro's awful, particularly for someone who often works late. After my experience this morning (car smelled awful, driver yelled at me when asked to take another route, driver loudly made a quite personal medical appointment on speakerphone, etc.), if there's a fare increase, I'm buying a car and moving out of the city.

Sometimes it seems like the Gray administration is purposefully trying to run folks out of town.

by Corey on Nov 30, 2011 9:36 am • linkreport

Child poverty increased all across the region over the past few years. DC has by far the highest number, with 20,872 (31%) of 5-17-year-olds living in poverty.

Shame on DC and its residents! In the shadow of the Capitol, no less. We should take a look at what they're doing in Loudon County, and replicate their successful strategies!

by oboe on Nov 30, 2011 9:37 am • linkreport

Thanks, Canaan. I fixed it.

by Eric Fidler on Nov 30, 2011 9:43 am • linkreport

I should ask my boss to give me a raise so I can prepare to do my work better. Then, at some point, I'll actually do better work. I swear.

by Tim on Nov 30, 2011 9:44 am • linkreport

Please clarify the Montgomery County police piece. The council did not prevent the police from collective bargaining, i.e., demanding certain wage and benefit changes. They prevented the police from engaging in effects bargaining. That is, the Council said that the police couldn't bargain over a responsibility of the job. A good example of what was at stake was whether officers were required to regularly check and respond to e-mails. There is an important difference between effects bargaining and traditional collective bargaining.

by thesixteenwords on Nov 30, 2011 9:51 am • linkreport

I'm firmly in agreement that there need to be serious service imporvements and standards that are strictly upheld for there to be any taxi fare increases. I'm consistently amazed by the city's taxi drivers. They don't even say, "that'll be difficult, but we need more money for it," they just say a flat no to the idea of improved service, and still expect fare increases! We have the crappiest taxi system I've ever experienced in this country, it's an absolute embarassment.

by Joe on Nov 30, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

poor children as a percent of all children is naturally going to be much higher in DC than in the suburbs, since a much large percentage of affluent DC residents are childless than in the suburbs. It may be an interesting metric for comparing states or metros, but its a poor metric for comparing cities to suburbs. More relevant in terms of burdens of poverty would be the ratio of poor childen to non poor tax payers, or of poor children to the tax base.

BTW its interesting to note that Loudon saw an increas in absolute number of poor children of 25% - much higher than in Fairfax - and in DC the number decreased.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 30, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

The taxi rate increase debate mixes three issues that should be kept separate. The first matter is an increase in rates to reflect increased operational costs. This should bring net profit per hour of taxi operation back in line with historical averages (adjusted for wage inflation). The second is a simplification of taxi fares by increasing mileage rates and eliminating surcharges. The simplification should have no net effect on profit per hour. The third is an increase in fares to reflect costs/effort of improving service. Here the increase should be proportional to the increased cost/effort taxi drivers face.

by Falls Church on Nov 30, 2011 10:04 am • linkreport

to follow up - note that the percentage of children living in poverty is higher in City of Alexandria than in PG county. I don't think theres much dispute that Alex is far healthier than PG, and that the burdern of poverty is more easily supported by the tax payers of Alex than in PG. However the same statistical quirk is at play - relatively fewer of the middle and upper class residents of Alex have children compared to PG.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 30, 2011 10:06 am • linkreport

I'm not sure what happens in other cities but metro's steadily increasing fares seems so much more than in other cities. I could be wrong but I just don't remember paying so many different fares over such a short period of time in other cities like NYC, Chi-town and Atl. Yeah, I know about the whole funding source thing but good grief! I already pay 3.10 (i think) to get from CHeights to the golden triangle. Add the 1.70 for the bus, then another 3.10 on the way home, plus a bus transfer.

Does this mean that the peak of the peak (another ridiculous fare) will be increased even more?

I need to see or hear an explanation as to why cabs need a doubled-fare increase. I know incidents like the one where the 25 and 15yr old living wastes of life makes it hard for drivers...but I most certainly already don't like waiting forever to find a cab willing to go EOTR. Now they want more?

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2011 10:09 am • linkreport

@Awalker, is it that a large number of affluent DC residents are "childless" or simply don't have child-age children?

I wonder what's the racial breakdown of impoverished kids in Alex.

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2011 10:13 am • linkreport

@howgwash

i was thinking in terms of children as defined by the statistical bureaus, which would not include adult "children", or "children" in college or otherwise no longer resident with their parents. I thought that was clear. I didnt think it necessary to write "childless, empty nesters, or preparenthood"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 30, 2011 10:19 am • linkreport

@hogwash

While it might not seem this way, Metro fare increases were roughly in line with the general rate of inflation from system opening through 2009. See:

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/1769/metrobus-metroaccess-fares-have-declined-with-inflation/

Since then, the bad economy has decreased ridership such that fare increases beyond the rate of inflation are necessary.

Bear in mind that there were no Metro fare increases from 1992 to 2000. That may have been the case in other cities as well and if that's when you were living in other cities, it might seem like those cities hold the line on fares while metro increases them all the time.

by Falls Church on Nov 30, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport

re: Taxi fare hikes...

You know, I can't for the life of me understand why the taxi industry has so much clout in DC, given that a miniscule number of taxi drivers actually live in DC for any length of time. They don't vote; so why do politicians like Gray continually put their interests above those of actual DC residents?

In the past few days, evidence surfaced that the campaign of Mayor Vincent Gray allegedly “laundered” cash contributions totaling $56,000 — primarily from taxi drivers and cab company interests. Gray’s campaign is also charged with failing to report “in-kind” contributions of more than 6,000 taxi rides providing voters transportation to polling locations. This, of course, is merely the latest embarrassment for a scandal-plagued local leadership class knee-deep in the muck of official impropriety.
(http://www.washingtonblade.com/2011/07/28/taxicab-confusions-inferior-service-regulatory-chaos/)

Ah, ok. Now it makes sense...

by oboe on Nov 30, 2011 11:18 am • linkreport

the Post article about Metro is confusing - lots of different figures related to the budget but no overall clear picture. how can expenses be $500M+ more than revenues? how does this lead to only a ~$100M deficit? what are the sources of the huge, 1-year increase in expenses?

by Arnold on Nov 30, 2011 11:25 am • linkreport

poor children as a percent of all children is naturally going to be much higher in DC than in the suburbs, since a much large percentage of affluent DC residents are childless than in the suburbs.

It's more illuminating to look at the raw numbers:

DC 30.5% (20,872 of 68,479)
FFX: 6.7% (12,697 of 190,161)

I have a hard time seeing how these numbers are fully explained by "DC's affluent residents" being less likely to have children than "Fairfax's affluent residents". Especially since the percentage of *adults* in poverty in DC is so much higher than in Fairfax.

While it's not very controversial to point out that poor people have more kids than affluent people, the high percentage of poor children in DC is surely a function of the high percentage of poor adults in DC.

by oboe on Nov 30, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

re: Gray's love of the taxi industry:

The plot thickens:

http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/2011/07/gray-campaign-failed-report-free-taxi-rides-voters

by oboe on Nov 30, 2011 11:32 am • linkreport

@ oboe - im pretty sure its both

Poverty rate in DC overall is 20%. for Fairfax in 2010 it was 5.6%. Note that in FFX the child rate is about 20% over the total rate, while in DC its 50% higher.

That suggests to me that both total povery rate, and the quirk of affluent adults in the suburbs having more children than affluent adults in DC, drives that childhood poverty numbers. Ergo, using childrens poverty rate, rather than overall poverty rate, in a comparison of cities and suburbs, can be misleading.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 30, 2011 12:00 pm • linkreport

@AWalker, oh ok.

@FallsChurch, I'm only considering my time here in DC and since then, the fares have gone from 1.10 (yes low) to 3.10. Just seems like a lot.

@Oboe, are you suggesting that a constituency shouldn't expect a return on their investment. I remember those articles from last summer, do we have a final answer on what will/did happen stemming from the Post's initial "investigation?"

That said, I haven't seen enough information here to suggest that Gray is putting the industry's needs over our own. I'm more open to hearing an explanation as to why the double-increase. But as I recall, didn't Fenty and his godfather (who moonlighted as the city's AG) find some sort of law saying that DC could implement a cap on taxi fares?

Your articles only refer to the cap not the proposed fare increase. Re: such, does anyone know if other cities have fare caps? That'll be a good place from which to start our analysis.

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

Guess I should have read the linked article. There is no proposal to "double" the fares as I previously understood.

The proposal would " increase the per-mile rate for D.C. cabs from $1.50 to $2.75 while dropping many existing surcharges.

That's what I get for not reading.

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2011 12:21 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity:

Absolutely, I agree there are fundamental differences in the "base" population. But in putting up the raw numbers, I wanted to illustrate that--could we adjust for that phenomenon, we'd likely see similar disparities. I disagree that it affects things enough to invalidate comparisons.

DC has a far greater number of poor people (and poor children) because a) poor people tend to have more children; and b) DC is historically where we've stashed our poor people.

by oboe on Nov 30, 2011 12:24 pm • linkreport

Your point about overall poverty rate (which is shamefully high in DC) being more of a one-to-one comparison is a good one though.

by oboe on Nov 30, 2011 12:25 pm • linkreport

@HogWash,

@Oboe, are you suggesting that a constituency shouldn't expect a return on their investment.

No, actually I was suggesting that the taxi industry isn't a "constituency" as the word is generally understood. It's a "constituency" in the same sense that the Chinese government is a constituency of any given Congressman, should they shower campaign contributions on him in return for favorable policies.

:)

by oboe on Nov 30, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

@Falls church: The analysis I performed in 2008 is outdated now, further fare increases since then have started a trend where peak rail fares have outpaced inflation.

If I get a spare day I can redo the analysis.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 30, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

I am extremely, extremely skeptical that the taxi "rate simplification" will result in anything but a steep hike. Cabbies make serious incremental dollars screwing people on fees and surcharges (like charging someone $2.00 to merely open the trunk from inside the car).

You really think they're going to give the byzantine surcharges up? That's how they make good chunks of their money!

by Corey on Nov 30, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport

Huh. They really are trying to get people to stay out of DC, aren't they? I used to do so much in DC after work and on the weekends but after Metro service reductions/cost increases (plus the fact that everything is cheaper in my neck of the woods--Old Town--anywya), I'm at once-per-week and it's starting to look like I might become one of those people that only come here for the paycheck (and the occasional Caps game).

Thanks to the reduction in Metro service after evening rush hour, I only do one after-work DC-based activity per week (used to be 3 nights a week). I switched my happy hour and art class down to Old Town but kept my dance class (which now...maybe not).

It's frustrating taking Metro home from Capitol Hill in the late evenings now because it takes an HOUR, whereas it takes 15-20 minutes to drive, so I currently switch it up between getting a ride from a friend, getting a cab (usually just under $20, which is not too terrible if you do it once or twice per month and just consider it part of the cost of the class) or suffering the Metro.

The cab thing could be enough to make the DC based dance class no longer worth it. Seriously. Especially because the level of service is terrible, they NEVER know where they're going (even when I say 'it's 3 miles south of National Airport') and you get a seatbelt maybe 50% of the time.

by Catherine on Nov 30, 2011 1:13 pm • linkreport

@HogWash

If you're talking about the same trip fare going from $1.10 to $3.10, you have to be talking 20 years ago.

by MLD on Nov 30, 2011 1:30 pm • linkreport

As someone who has taken lots of taxis over the years in DC (and other US & world cities), I've always been amazed at how lousy the cabs are here. Broken-down cars, belligerent drivers, opaque fares and surcharges, just the worst.

It'd be great to see an analysis of why DC has such awful taxi service. (or are my experiences atypical here/elsewhere and it turns out DC cabs are average?) Has it always been awful?

I remember how politically difficult it was to even get meters installed, who are the players in making changes to the taxi system, and why are they so resistant to change? Is driving a cab in DC dramatically different/more difficult than other cities? Why does it seem so complicated to establish a fair (to drivers and passengers) system here?

This is a real issue for a growing [world-class] city, I'd love to see some more reporting on it.

by c2b16e on Nov 30, 2011 1:45 pm • linkreport

Just google the phrase "regulatory capture" and you will have a good understanding of the dynamics of taxi regulation in DC. Also, the only reason meters happened is because they were federally mandated.

by Phil on Nov 30, 2011 1:47 pm • linkreport

Certainly the cab drivers don't want to pay for a bunch of improvements with no guarantee of more income. I'd say the current model of high surcharges and low distance charges is what hurts cabbies in DC. It means that more people choose to take long trips because of the cheap per-mile rates. That doesn't do much for a driver's income because they have to backtrack in order to get another fare, and haven't made as much as they would in another city for going that long distance.

DC probably also has too many cabs - I'm always seeing the stat that we have way more cabs per capita than other cities.

That said, the current situation is terrible. Whenever I take a cab in Arlington or another city I'm always shocked at how much better it is than the cabs and drivers in DC.

by MLD on Nov 30, 2011 2:18 pm • linkreport

@MLD, does read rather silly hunh?

Although it was 1.10 in '99. I wasn't considering the normal vs. rush hour charge. But even then, I don't remember paying much beyond 1.40 to travel from brookland to Farragut. Maybe 1.60?

I agree about the surcharges. I'll be damned if I pay extra so the driver can open the trunk and then "i" load my bags.

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2011 2:50 pm • linkreport

@MLD, "DC probably also has too many cabs - I'm always seeing the stat that we have way more cabs per capita than other cities."

Not to snark here, but have you ever tried to get one during a rainy rush-hour?

You could fix the long-fare problem by letting cabs pick up freely across jurisdictions.

by Corey on Nov 30, 2011 3:41 pm • linkreport

You could fix the long-fare problem by letting cabs pick up freely across jurisdictions.

Nice idea but you can't have DC cabs that don't meet strict Arlington regulations picking up passengers in Arlington. Otherwise, every cab driver would just register their taxi in DC and then operate in whatever jurisdiction they would like. That would create a race to the bottom.

by Falls Church on Nov 30, 2011 3:54 pm • linkreport

I don't think "too many cabs" is really a problem. The free market exists to handle these sorts of issues. If there are too many cabs for the population, then some people will stop driving cabs and the market will be rebalanced. Limiting the supply of cabs is just a giveaway to existing cab drivers at the expense of everyone else.

And if you put some actual standards for cabs in place then the number of cabs will decrease anyway, since not everyone will have the means or desire to bring their cabs into compliance.

by Phil on Nov 30, 2011 4:40 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church, "Otherwise, every cab driver would just register their taxi in DC and then operate in whatever jurisdiction they would like."

Simple fix: if all the jurisdictions can get together and allow cross-jurisdiction pickups, they can settle on a common or similar regulation scheme, too.

by Corey on Nov 30, 2011 6:32 pm • linkreport

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