Greater Greater Washington

Taxis


Taxi rules are too confusing, even for Congressmen

Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) got into a dispute with a cab driver over a fare, refused to pay the driver, then left in a different cab. Is this a "ride-and-ditch" scandal, as the City Paper dubbed it? Or was Nadler doing what any of us would do?


Photo by azipaybarah on Flickr.

What happened: Nadler got in a cab at Union Station and went to the Channel Inn, on Water Street in Southwest. He asked the cabbie to keep the meter running while he dropped off his luggage, then take him to Capitol Hill.

In New York, this would be perfectly acceptable. But, as it turns out, that's not the case in DC. Instead, according to the taxi laws, the meter has to be reset and a new trip started, including the $3 "flag drop" charge.

Or maybe not. The Hill reports that Taxi Commission Chair Leon Swain says Nadler is right. But DCTC's FAQ seems to say that if the rider originally asks for one destination, then arrives and wants to continue to another, it's counted as a second trip. It's also another trip if the second leg is a round trip or not "in one direction." That's probably the case for a trip from Union Station to the Channel Inn to the House side of Capitol Hill, depending on the definition of "one direction."

Either way, it's confusing. New York's method of simply keeping the meter running until the passenger gets out of the taxi makes a lot more sense.

Worse yet, it appears that if a group of people get in a cab to different destinations, they also have to pay multiple flag drop fees. According to 31 DCMR §801.7:

In cases where more than one passenger enters a taxicab at the same time on a pre-arranged basis (group riding) bound for different destinations, in addition to the applicable charges set out in this section, the fare shall be charged as follows: Whenever a passenger gets out, the fare shall be paid, the meter shall be reset, and the last passenger shall pay the remaining fee;
Does "the meter shall be reset" involve charging the $3 flag drop all over again? I called DCTC, and the person I spoke to thought that was right. I didn't know this. Did you?

Compared to other cities, DC's taxi fare structure is quite hostile to groups of people sharing cabs. Not only do we have a $1.50 surcharge per passenger, which isn't present in NYC or many other cities, but in addition, someone can't get out halfway along a route without adding an extra $3 to the overall fare.

Nadler probably thought this driver was trying to scam him. If I had been in a cab with one or two other people and the driver had tried to charge another $3 flag drop to drop off someone along the way, or had tried to charge it after making a stop, I'd probably have thought that as well.

I've gotten in debates with taxi drivers before, like when one refused to take the route I asked. In that case, I also got out of that cab and into a different one. Nadler is going to send the driver the payment he had originally expected anyway, which is the right thing to do. But this could have happened to anyone, thanks to the way some drivers seem to scam for extra money, and the law is so nonsensical, confusing, or counterintuitive that someone might logically believe they are being scammed even if they're not.

Taxi drivers say the current rates are too low for them to make decent money. If that's the issue, extra high fees for groups is not a good answer. The fares should simply reflect what's necessary to keep enough taxis on the road.

(Disclosure: I used to live in Nadler's district and have met him a few times. I also have a friend who works for him, but I found out about this independently.)

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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It doesn't make sense to have to pay the flag drop fee.

As far as I see it, that fee is designed to cover the cost of driving around to find another fare. Maybe I'm completely wrong, but that's how I understand it.

In Nadler's case, the cabbie didn't go out and drive around again to find another fare; he had another fare. In fact, he was just waiting, and there's a set cost for waiting time.

by Tim on Jul 14, 2010 3:58 pm • linkreport

I know all these rules, because I made it a point to know them after many arguments with dishonest cab drivers.

The multiple-destination-reset thing is idiotic. Depending on the route, it means you might be better off just taking two separate cabs.

These rules made slightly more sense under the zone system, I mean, why should a cab have to take you to (e.g.) two different destinations in a single zone and only receive one fare?

But with meters, all the complexities are eliminated: you pay for the time and distance you travel, plus an extra passenger fee (and even that is a bit of a gouge).

There is basically no extra cost to a cab to make two stops. He gets paid for the entire distance traveled. If it's not a straight line, so what? It's a longer trip.

I don't get this "rates are too low" business. We have the highest drop in the nation and a mileage rate that's in the middle.

It could be that there are just too many cabs. This is a factor of supply and demand. I personally have walked long distances instead of taking a cab because I am insulted by the typical level of incompetence and attempted cheating that I often get from cabs. I doubt I'm alone.

Maybe if the average cabbie wasn't a thief, there would be more demand.

by Jamie on Jul 14, 2010 3:58 pm • linkreport

I am shocked, shocked! that cabbies think the fares are too low.

The fares are fine and the BS fees need to go. If cabbies can't hack it, we can reconsider. Until then, I still maintain that were being robbed due to their empty threats.

As long as we think of taxis first and foremost as a employment tool, we will keep getting robbed (and I will continue to avoid cabs at just about any cost).

by Reid on Jul 14, 2010 4:01 pm • linkreport

With the additional flag drop wouldn't there also a second round of passenger surcharges?

I had two friends visiting from NYC one weekend and they thought for sure we were getting ripped off when three of us got in a cab and the total was already $5 before we took off.

What really irks me though is the combination of cabbies who won't take you home because they don't want to drive to your area (also part of the rules) and then have the nerve to complain about the fares with meters.

by DC Dan on Jul 14, 2010 4:06 pm • linkreport

"cabbies can't hack it"... no pun intended? ha ha!

DC cabs are the worst in the nation. I have never been to another city where I've received such consistently poor service.

Half the time I have to tell the cab where he's going because he asks me how to get there. The other half the time, I have to tell them exactly HOW to go so they don't do something idiotic and self-serving like, say, drive up 18th Street through Adams Morgan on Friday night. I don't think a single cab has ever chosen to take Rock Creek Parkway without my instruction. Isn't there some basic requirement that you understand, at a minimum, the major arteries in this city?

On the other hand, in almost every other city, I've felt like the cab drove efficiently, easily figured our or knew where he was going without asking me, and didn't drive 15 MPH through congested areas on purpose to look for extra fares.

I really don't get why there's such a different culture here with the cabs, but I hate them.

by Jamie on Jul 14, 2010 4:08 pm • linkreport

Yeah, I think no matter what the fares, cabbies will think them too low.

But @Jamie makes a great point about the number of cabs. I've seen a number of places that say (although they don't give the numbers) that DC has the highest numbers of taxis per capita. And I don't believe there's any system here like the medallions in NYC.

Regardless, I agree that this rule is both a) confusing and b) unnecessarily burdensome to riders. You would think that they could offer a different setting for the the meter drop that would eliminate the $3.00 charge for subsequent riders. Otherwise there's virtually no advantage - cost-wise- to cab-sharing.

Luckily, I've been very clear up front with drivers about sharing a cab with neighbors who are just a few blocks away. They've left the meter running and have received a much bigger tip from me as a result.

by EmilyHaHa on Jul 14, 2010 4:09 pm • linkreport

I get in a "conversation" with cabbies everytime I go to the airport regarding luggage. The two stated "extras" are:
- $2.00 for Large Luggage in truck (per piece)
- $0.50 for Large Luggage handled by driver (per piece)

I usually just put my roller carry-on with me in the backseat, though occasionally in the trunk (which they pop open but I always place in the trunk). I get charged, usually, a $1.00 - to $1.50 'extra'. When I ask, I get the "luggage" claim. When I point out it is neither "large" nor "handled" by the driver, they either tell me it is another charge (which is not stated) or claim it IS large. They usually argue their tip away. Only once have I had a cabbie agree to remove the 'extra' they (incorrectly) charged me.

NYC cabs, be it the "extras" for luggage or groups, have a much simpler, fairer system. DC cabs, though better now with meters+ (as opposed to the horrible zone system), still have a ways to go.

by Mase on Jul 14, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

The Kojo Show discussed this on Monday: (http://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2010-07-12/taxi-service-our-region)

The zone system was cheaper for where I live now, but the meter is easier for anyone who visits DC and doesn't have a clue about zones...

DC cab fares are low compared to the region, and it's not necessarily a supply and demand issue since individual cabs don't set their market rates.

DC arguably has, on average, the smartest, most educated cabbies in the world... I think the Washingtonian had a story to that effect last Spring.

All that said, I generally ride my bike everywhere...

by S.A.M. on Jul 14, 2010 4:20 pm • linkreport

Having used cabs in cities across the country, I have to agree that the rules surrounding cab fares in DC are pretty wild.

Just as @Jamie brought up, cabbies don't really know their way around town outside of the major routes (even though many have GPS systems). The other night I had to provide specific directions on how to get from Arlington to the Capitol, and the cabbie still managed to swing near Union Station.

Would DC benefit from having a system similar to NYC? Private cab companies would license operational rights from a governmental body, but cabbies would not be government employees (potentially avoiding a boondoggle like the Metro). This might reduce resistance to fare and fee adjustments (like the meter crisis of the other year), and may even lead to stricter rules on the quality of vehicle used (there many, many cabs that are less than safe or fuel efficient roaming the streets). While it has made some mistakes over the years, NY's Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) has introduced a number of passenger-oriented requirements that make sense, and which might never have happened if there wasn't a strong authority in charge.

by Brent on Jul 14, 2010 4:27 pm • linkreport

"it's not necessarily a supply and demand issue since individual cabs don't set their market rates."

Doesn't matter. If there are too many cabs, then each cabbie will be carrying fewer passengers every day than they otherwise would.

I don't know what the optimal scenario is in terms of cab utilization, but clearly, there could be an imbalance. Too many cabs means it's very easy to get a cab, but cabs are not earning money a lot of the time. Too few means cabs are fully utilized and making bank, but passengers have a hard time getting one.

In theory market forces should dictate the number of cabs (not the price they charge). I don't know how it works in DC, but if cabs aren't earning enough, maybe we issue too many licenses.

by Jamie on Jul 14, 2010 4:27 pm • linkreport

for all the cities and towns around the world in which i've used taxis, i've only had one bad experience with a cab driver ever--it was a DC driver. it involved lots of cussing of my mom and a pocketknife that presumably would have been used to cut me up. fun times.

i've often thought of starting a 'Friendly Cab' company because even though i haven't had cab trouble in any other city -- ever -- i've had cabbies who were cranky or downright rude, and that, to me, is just not acceptable. taking a cab put riders in a very vulnerable situation as is -- while admitting that drivers are very vulnerable, too -- i just think that people should be treated with the utmost respect, especially when you literally control their destiny so directly.

ditto this 'drivers should be courteous and respectful and even friendly' for all public transit workers. some/most of the conductors on our commuter train out here in Cali (Caltrain) really do treat us like children and/or criminal when it's ticket-checking time.

but you'll be happy to know i have a simple solution -- just GPS the taxi ride data to a central data collection/fare calculation system -- simple. if a network link is lost, the data can be uploaded later upon reconnect and fares checked then. might take a tech company from The Valley to make it happen, but it could be done easy enough, I suspect. Trust but verify! :)

by Peter Smith on Jul 14, 2010 4:38 pm • linkreport

I think you all are missing the real back story. Why was Congressman Nadler headed to the Channel Inn of all places?

That said, I agree with the points above:

-Extra Flag drop fees are ridiculous
-I have to direct the majority of cabs to major roads such as Columbia

It is too bad the Ted Loza scandal happened, otherwise we might have had some decent enforcement in place by now.

by DCres on Jul 14, 2010 4:46 pm • linkreport

I find dispatch service in the city to be an absolute nightmare. I'd be quite happy if the city did away with the protectionism and allowed VA cab companies to pick up in DC for in-city rides. Barwood can stay and continue to not pick people up in MoCo, thank you.

On the group ride issue, it gets even better when the cabbie has made you ride together, like they still can at Union Station. Try getting an explanation of the fare when that happens.

by HM on Jul 14, 2010 4:56 pm • linkreport

I have an affinity for cab drivers, my dad was actually a DC cab driver back in the '50s. Yes, how times have changed. I've never had a bad cab experience, and I actually usually like to talk to the drivers because they are interesting and usually have good stories. I remember one ride with a Liberian driver last year on what happened to be Liberia's independence day. He was playing some wild music and we had a really good time. I can't see myself stiffing a cab driver even if I thought they were jobbing me. At least give them something. So, No, what Nadler did is not the same thing any of us would do.

by Lou on Jul 14, 2010 5:02 pm • linkreport

I've had this happen to me (Cab from Chinatown to foggy bottom and then proceeding to Rosslyn, charging a second drop fee for the second leg.) In this case, I take these fees out of the tip I'd normally leave.

I also take any "per passenger" fees out of the tip- This is another ridiculous rule that doesn't exist anywhere else. As a single person, I've had many cabs not stop for me because they want to get more people in the car. Also, it makes short trips with lots of people very expensive.

by A on Jul 14, 2010 5:15 pm • linkreport

I have had some bad experiences with DC taxi drivers, but 95 percent of the time they are fine. Not great or excellent, mind you, but fine. Biggest problem: not wanting to go my house. Favorite excuse: "it's a bad neighborhood." Beyond being an illegal excuse (and just plain wrong), even the most dimwitted person should realize what an insult that is. My other favorite excuse: "that is really far." Well, yes, it is relatively far -- that is why I am taking a taxi. If it was close, I could probably just walk or bike! (I live inside the L'Enfant City, so it's not as though I am asking to go to Kensington or something.)

by rg on Jul 14, 2010 5:49 pm • linkreport

The group riding charges are horrible. One time there were four of us who got into a cab on Capitol Hill. Two of us were going to Logan Circle and the other two to Mt. Pleasant. When we got in the cab we had the flag drop, plus we had $4.50 because there were three extra passengers. When we got to Logan we had to pay the total fare on the meter, two people got out, then he reset the meter for another flag drop and then $1.50 for the second passenger. They then had to pay the full fare again after getting to Mt. Pleasant. In NYC the meter never would have stopped at Logan Circle and we just would have given our friends a portion of the total fare to pay once they got to Mt. Pleasant.

by inlogan on Jul 14, 2010 6:00 pm • linkreport

I resent the cab fares every time I visit New York City. And realized we had a third world nation setup with our cabs after seeing the high-tech gizmos in Singapore taxis (NYC finally caught up - 7 years later).

I don't have trouble getting a cab to go to my house when I hail one. But forget calling dispatch to get a cab to come to my house. A driver who finally picked me up once 50 minutes after I called for a cab told me they don't like picking up fares in my 'hood. Which is directly on the way from the cab depots to Union Station!

What really gets my goat is DC officials keep comparing our fares to Virginia and Maryland. No, dammit, we're a city. you should be comparing to NYC, not our suburbs. New York doesn't compare its rates to Westchester.

by lou on Jul 14, 2010 6:32 pm • linkreport

Agree-there is simply no coherent justification for the extra passenger surcharge, and it discourages ride sharing. Perhaps cabbies like that, though--more fares.

by ah on Jul 14, 2010 8:55 pm • linkreport

How hard is Nadler's claim to resolve? It's what's "RECORDED ON THE MANIFEST".

by ah on Jul 14, 2010 8:57 pm • linkreport

The government-set rate leads to all kinds of problems. A better solution would be to run taxis like health care or cell phones. You buy membership in a taxi plan, operated by an actuarial company, that sets a level of service and the pricing rules. You can take taxis that are in your plan, or, in some cases, you can go out-of-plan on different rules. You could opt for a pure-distance plan, a pure-time plan, a flat monthly plan, an off-peak-only plan, a friends-and-family plan, a politician plan with specials to Channel Inn and Buzzard point, or whatever. There would be no more complaints about byzantine rules imposed by the government.

by Turnip on Jul 14, 2010 9:27 pm • linkreport

I have had some awful experiences with cabs. There's definitely a problem with enforcement. I have had cabbies tell me that they "only drive a cab sometimes" to justify not having a displayed license. I have also been in cabs with broken door handles. Most of these cabs, in my experience, are ghost cabs rented by either friends or family of the owner. The practice is dangerous and the taxi commission should have greater enforcement capacity.

by Adam L on Jul 14, 2010 10:36 pm • linkreport

The worst thing about cabs that I have found is that late at night after the bars let out no cab from U Street or Dupont Circle will take me to North Bethesda, even if I'm already in the cab. This past spring I got in a cab at Dupont and the guy told me it would be a flat $30 fee! I got out and got another cab, and the ride only cost $20 so I gladly gave the driver a $5 tip for not being an asshole.

by Ted on Jul 14, 2010 11:59 pm • linkreport

@Ted, I've had drivers try to pull the same flat-fee crap on me, claiming that their meters are busted. Most recently, a driver suggested that a trip from Union Station to Old Town would cost $30. Given that I usually pay around $20 at that hour for that trip including the tip, I told him to stuff it, and I plan to file a report on him.

The other trick I've seen cabbies try to pull is using Rate 3, the snow emergency rate which charges 25% more than Rate 2.

(Rather appropriate captcha for this post: "segments questioned".)

by Craig on Jul 15, 2010 12:43 am • linkreport

I echo the sentiments of those above who say the taxi "market" itself is flooded with entirely too many cabs. The vast majority of the taxis I see driving around town are usually empty - LOOKING for people to pick up (usually blocking a lane of traffic while doing so).

Personally, I have zero respect for cab drivers. I think they're one of the top 3 worst things about living in D.C. They think they own the roads (which they clearly do not). They block bike lanes constantly (in addition to actual travel lanes [U Street, anyone?]), make illegal U-turns, double the speed limit on busy roads like Rhode Island and Massachusetts, rarely yield to pedestrians, and park illegally where ever they please - ALL without consequence.

Their erroneous fees and surcharges are absolutely ridiculous... I honestly don't see why anyone actually patronizes these drivers... Their money-grabbing schemes are so dishonest, it's mind boggling how they're able to get away with it.

I'd sooner walk, ride my bike, or (as a last resort) take Metro - rather than step foot inside another D.C. taxi.

by Josh C. on Jul 15, 2010 8:03 am • linkreport

First off, the whole idea of meters is ridiculous! When we had the zone system , the fare was the fare was the fare. I'm sorry if you can't read a map, and then assert yourself with the driver when they try to scam you, having taken a roundabout way to your destination, but again, with the zone system the fare was the fare was the fare, period! It was up to the cabbie to get you there as expeditiously as possible so they could get the next fare. Very simple...

Now, that said, currently there are too many cabs in DC, and also there must be something hinky going on at the taxi commission, because many many of our cabbies do not have a clue how to get around the city. One is supposed to be able to get in a cab, give the destination and then sit back and relax until arrival. Instead, you have to pay close attention to the route taken, and sometimes you even have to direct the cabbie turn by turn, otherwise you will most likely be scammed if you are not paying attention. Ridiculous...

@ S.A.M.- I must be living in the DC of an alternate universe from you and the Washingtonian, if in your DC the cabbies are "...on average, the smartest, most educated cabbies in the world. Go figure...

by KevinM on Jul 15, 2010 8:24 am • linkreport

Well, at least they didn't try charging Nadler by the pound.

by Mike on Jul 15, 2010 8:48 am • linkreport

Interested in becoming a taxicab driver in DC? Here's how to get a license:
http://dctaxi.dc.gov/dctaxi/cwp/view,a,3,q,488015.asp
FYI: It's really easy, and some (including me) would say that this is not a good thing. In fact, if you look at this page you'll note that the taxicab examination was "suspended indefinitely." Not a lot of taxicab regulation in DC and very minimal start-up costs involved for independent operators.

That said, as a periodic taxi customer (who usually takes transit or walks), I've actually had good experiences with taxi service in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, etc. So, to offer a counter-point to this article and to some of the comments, I'd like to suggest that there are good, honest taxicab drivers and good taxicab service out there. But, there needs to be good regulation and a few good incentives in place, too, to support good taxi service.

by Penny Everline on Jul 15, 2010 8:56 am • linkreport

Taxi fares should be simple and based on distance or time traveled. There should be no other fees involved. If a driver handles bags, than people should handle that in their tip. All the other fees are like the unbundled "convenience" fees that airline charge: solely intended to confuse and rip off customers.

Washington region cabbies are pretty bad. The easiest way to get better cabbies is to mandate significant knowledge of streets. In London, cabbies are required to pretty much memorize the entire map of Greater London. This requirements, which is beneficial to customers, also gets rid of all the stupid and lazy cab drivers. It takes 2-4 years to become a licensed taxi driver in London.

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/businessandpartners/taxisandprivatehire/1412.aspx

Such a program will be impossible here though, due to the jurisdictional boundaries. The best sign of the insanity of the superfluous cab rules here is that many cabs have two tags, just to allow them to pick up fares in two jurisdictions. If we can't fix that, there is no way we can get decent cabbies.

by Jasper on Jul 15, 2010 9:33 am • linkreport

DC taxicabs are horrible. Half the time the drivers want to get into some political argument; the other half they're refusing to break a $20. When I used to commute to Maryland, I would regularly see DC taxicabs driving around with DC dealer tags.

What I don't understand is why DC's taxicab industry has such huge political leverage when it seems hardly any of those working in the industry actually live in DC.

The larger question: Why not just look at a functioning taxi cab system (e.g. , NYC), and implement it exactly the same way here? It seems like every urban municipality in the nation feels it has to reinvent the wheel. DC especially. Why not have some sort of "League of Cities" that share best practices and such?

by oboe on Jul 15, 2010 10:02 am • linkreport

@Penny - I believe the DC taxicab examinations were "suspended indefinitely" because the the test and its answers were leaked/sold to numerous applicants. The corruption and just general shadiness of the DC cab industry is pretty hilarious.

by ontarioroader on Jul 15, 2010 10:20 am • linkreport

Most DC taxi drivers are good people. I probably get one who tries to rip me off about 5% of the time. This is the rate of theft common to most professions, from investment bankers to lawyers. Cabbies who don't know their way around town are not unique to DC either. I've been lost in NYC taxis on many many occassions.

by aaa on Jul 15, 2010 10:33 am • linkreport

As long as we think of taxis first and foremost as a employment tool, we will keep getting robbed (and I will continue to avoid cabs at just about any cost).

Hear, hear. The taxi drivers basically operate a Mob operation that uses its power to impose ridiculousness like the double flag drop fee while "maintaining" a fleet that's falling apart and unsafe. While I'm sure there are plenty of individual drivers who are nice people, that's not really the point. The taxi driver cabal as an organization is a poster child for corruption and we need to move into the 21st century with a system that works.

by Erica on Jul 15, 2010 10:49 am • linkreport

I generally have good experiences with DC cabs, but was extremely pissed off the other night when the cabbie didn't have change for a $20. He had the nerve to say "oh, you should have told me when you got in". Um, no, why didn't you tell me when I got in that you didn't have any small bills for change? Cabbies (in DC) run a cash-based business, I can't fathom why they can't seem to grasp that they should stock up on change at the beginning of their shift. If they are running low at some point, stop at a 7-11 and buy a pack of gum or something. Of course, I know many cabbies probably do this so the passenger just ends up paying a higher fare (which I did - shame on me) because they are too annoyed once at their destination to deal with it. What other business can get away with overcharging due to not having change??

Of course, this opens the conversation re: getting DC cabs to take credit cards...

by jcm1 on Jul 15, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

@jcm1 - When a cabbie tries to pull the "I don't have change for a $20" bit I give them three options:

1) Dig around and find the change in your cab where we all know it is hiding somewhere
2) Stop the meter wherever we are, drive to the nearest convenience store where you can get change and return me to my destination on your dime
3) Accept whatever amount of cash I have on me that comes closest to but not over the amount of the fare (which could be $0 if all I have is a $20)

Miraculously option #1 is almost always the end result. When they say they'll call the cops I dial 911, state that this is a non-emergency call and put it on speaker.

by tce2 on Jul 15, 2010 11:57 am • linkreport

@ ontarioroader: It should be pretty easy to design randomized electronic tests. For instance, you could just give a blank map and ask to locate random addresses. There is no cheating on such a test. Similarly, it can not be hard to design a program asking to complete random routes, especially not with all the mapping internet services around.

by Jasper on Jul 15, 2010 12:28 pm • linkreport

As long as we think of taxis first and foremost as a employment tool, we will keep getting robbed (and I will continue to avoid cabs at just about any cost).

What I don't understand is who is this "we" that thinks of taxis as an employment tool? And given that that vast, overwhelming majority of drivers and others in the taxi industry live in Maryland or Virginia, why do they have such leverage over DC politics?

by oboe on Jul 15, 2010 1:08 pm • linkreport

Since I've moved to DC, I haven't really had any taxi problems (save for the extra passenger fee ... pretty stupid).

But when I lived in Arlington, I would sometimes take a taxi from DC to Arlington late at night. The vast majority of times, I had to ask the driver if it was okay. Then we'd have to negotiate a flat fare, usually a few dollars more than what would be on a meter. It was illegal, yes, but I did it anyway, and sometimes (like on New Years Eve) I really had no choice. And of course, I always had to give directions.

I wonder if I could/should have reported those drivers to the taxi commission ... hmm.

by Tim on Jul 15, 2010 4:50 pm • linkreport

I think I have to help everybody to come back to the main point.The point is that the cab driver was complying with the law (the taxicab commission rules)when he consider the the trips as two separate fares,It is the lawmaker(The congressman) who broke the law by refusing to pay the driver,oh let me add this ,the congressman was misled by the commissioner not once but twice,but that does not excuse him to take the law on his hand,instead he supposed to pay and file a complaint with the taxicab commission and get his money back,if the charge was illegal, as the LAWMAKER himself is tring to do now to pay the cab driver through the cab commission.

by 169L on Jul 16, 2010 1:00 am • linkreport

Wow. This is why I never take a cab--too expensive and confusing as hell.

by Matthias on Jul 16, 2010 2:08 pm • linkreport

There are bad apples no matter where you go, that is the first thing I want to say. But as far as who is wrong and who is right in this case it all depends who wants to interpret the law. It is a crime punishable by law if you donÂ’t pay for the service that has been provided to you even if you are not happy with the service. The fact is that by law Mr. Nadler had to pay the cab driver even if he was right about interpreting the law. He should have paid, gotten a receipt and all the information about the driver and then file a report with the D.C. Taxicab Commission and prove that he was right and the driver was wrong.
If you really want to know who is at fault here you donÂ’t have to dig deep, it is mayor Fenty, the city council and the D.C. Taxicab commissioners who should be blamed not only for licensing so many unqualified drivers but also for writing such a ambiguous laws that even a congressman cannot interpret, and by giving the DC cab drivers the lowest rate and to top it all off by putting a $19 cap on the fares, and creating a hostile environment for all parties involved. The drivers are unhappy because they are working harder and longer and are unable to take enough money home and the passengers are getting in a lot cabs where the drivers are either tired, sleepy and grouchy or unprofessional, unqualified and donÂ’t know where they are going. Now tell me who we should blame?
You do not have most of these problems in other cities. If there wasn't a $19 cap on the meter you wouldnÂ’t have this situation where a congressman would have to carry the interpretation of D.C. Taxicab Regulations in his back packet. It is ironic that in 2009, Mr. Nadler had asked Mr. Swain the chairman of D.C. Taxicab Commission the same question that Mr. Habteab asked him in a public hearing on January 13, 2010, but they both got a totally different answer and both of them were carrying the answers they got from Mr. Swain. We owe all of this to our wonderful lawmakers in our great city of Washington D.C. These people should be role models to other lawmakers in the world about how to run a city.
The cab drivers have been asking the city to fix these problems for more than two years by going to the hearing after hearing, by protesting and striking but the city officials have ignored them time and time again. At the end of the day the buck should stop at mayor Fenty's door and he should be the one who should answer for his lack of leadership.

Thanks to the $19 cap on the fares originating and ending in D.C. that mayor Fenty has refused to lift even after the city council unanimously voted to lift, the cab drivers have to restart their meter for a round trip or trips that have stops that are not (EN ROUTE). The trip that the congressman took from the Union Station to Channel Inn (650 Water St. S.W. Washington D.C.) to drop his luggage off and then go to the Rayburn House Office building is not an en route trip.
Washington Union Station
Washington, DC
1. Head west on E St NE toward Columbus Cir NE/Columbus Monument Dr NW 75 ft
2. Turn left at Columbus Cir NE/Columbus Monument Dr NW
Continue to follow Columbus Cir NE 0.3 mi
3. Turn right at 2nd St NE 0.5 mi
4. Turn right at Independence Ave SE 1.0 mi
5. Turn left at 7th St SW 0.7 mi
6. Turn left at Water St SW
Destination will be on the right 276 ft
2.5 mi – about 7 mins
650 Water St SW Washington, DC 20024
7. Head northwest on Water St SW toward 7th St SW 230 ft
8. Take the 1st right onto 7th St SW 400 ft
9. Slight left toward 7th St SW 0.4 mi
10. Continue straight onto 7th St SW 0.2 mi
11. Turn right at Independence Ave SW
Destination will be on the right 0.6 mi
1.3 mi – about 3 mins
Rayburn House Office Bldg Washington, DC 20515

This clearly shows that Channel Inn is not en route to Rayburn House Office Building as congressman Nadler claims that it is, however Rayburn House Office Building would be en route to the Channel Inn. He has been misinformed by nobody other than Mr. Swain the chairman of D.C. Taxicab Commission who has played a big role in making these ambiguous rule and regulations that even he cannot understand. Way to go guys (city officils), just as the bike route that you spent so much of our tax dollars to create and then had to go back and spend more money to remove, you have done it with the taxicab drivers, after almost starving them out of business now you have to seek the congressional help to come in here and fix the mess you have created. Way to go.

by Zonk on Jul 17, 2010 5:38 am • linkreport

The fact is that DC has the lowest meter mileage rate in the country ($1.50) and a wait time rate of $15.00 when the national average is around $22.00. Most cab drivers do NOT cheat and want the bad apples to get off the road. However, under the new meter system it is much more difficult to cheat than under the old zone system. You have to keep in mind that the Fenty administration cut the income of the DC taxicab driver by 30% when meters were installed.

by Driver Dignity on Jul 24, 2010 11:54 am • linkreport

If you want all of the correct details about what happened and what the regulations are, go to http://justicefordctaxis.com

This whole confusion never would have happened if drivers had representation on the Commission that governs their own industry and livelihood.

by Justice DC Taxis on Jul 24, 2010 11:57 am • linkreport

If one could read a map and had a fairly decent knowledge of the city, one could not be cheated under the old zone system. The fair was the fair was the fair, period. The route and time to destination did not matter. A D.C. native or long-time resident certainly couldn't be cheated, and it only took routine awareness of the DC map to ensure that one could not be cheated on the fare. Of course, tourists beware, but that didn't bother me...

by KevinM on Jul 24, 2010 5:48 pm • linkreport

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