A taxi, Leon Swain, and me
My car got towed last week (for accidentally violating a Pepco temporary no-parking notice). When I got back today I immediately went to get it out of the impound lot, at 2nd and Q
Southeast Southwest. I got into a cab, but upon hearing the destination, the driver claimed not to know where that was (bogus) and refused to transport me.
This is my first direct experience with this (taxis are usually happy to go to Dupont), but I'd read plenty of articles. It was certainly the kind of fare a cabbie doesn't want; it's just $9.80 (two zones) for a five-mile trip across all of downtown, and ends in a bad neighborhood.
However, the law says I get to go (and besides, if I'd been going to the Cannon House Office Building, only one zone and almost as far, I bet he'd have taken me). I decided to see if DC's taxi enforcement was really a joke, as some had written, or not.
Sitting in the taxi, I called the number on the Passengers' Bill of Rights. I reached an operator right away, who assured me that the driver ought to know where it is. (Obviously. It's a grid, after all.)
She asked me to relay the driver's license number, posted on the right visor. However, the visor was flipped up (as it often is). When I reached over to flip it down, the driver grabbed the visor and refused to let me see his license.
Hearing this, the operator transferred me to her supervisor, who turned out to be Taxicab Commission Chairman Leon J. Swain. Swain asked to speak to the driver, which I set up via speaker since I didn't want to hand my phone to this man.
Swain asked the driver why he wouldn't transport me, and the driver replied that he wanted the fare in advance. This hadn't come up earlier, but I had no objections; besides, having read the Taxi Bill of Rights many times while bored in a cab, I knew the driver was entitled to the fare in advance. (I was about to shell out $240 cash to get my car back. $10 was not the issue.)
Swain then told the driver to show me his license placard, which he did so I could read it over the phone. We then confirmed the driver's name. Before closing the call, Swain told the driver in no uncertain terms that he expected to see the driver in his office this afternoon, as soon as he had dropped me off at 2nd and Q, Southwest. Thanks, Leon Swain!
Will this driver face actual penalties? I don't really care. I didn't want to ruin his day; I just wanted to get my car back. I do hope that this deters other drivers from refusing to transport passengers. Blog posts I'd read in the past say that DC's enforcement is lax. Is this kind of treatment new? Old and ultimately ineffective despite appearances? Something else?
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