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D.C. taxi drivers say their complaints are still not heard

Updated 11:11 a.m.

A five-mile ride with a five-minute wait in the District costs $11.50, the lowest in the region, according to a study by an economist on behalf of two taxicab groups.

Kara Gorski, vice president of District-based Edgewoth Economics, told taxicab commissioners that her firm looked at surrounding jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia and found higher fares there. Prince George's County came closest in price to the District, charging $12.75 for the same five-and-five ride, according to her written testimony. Bethesda was highest with $16.33.

Some taxi drivers and this reporter were allowed to enter the small hearing room where the commission is listening to testimony about whether the city's current rate structure is fair and equitable.

Some District taxicab drivers say Wednesday's hearing on rates proves once again that their voices will not be heard.

The taxicab commission is holding the hearing in a small room at a government building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard SE. Some taxi drivers and a reporter (yours, truly) are stuck in a hallway.

"There are 6,000 taxi drivers in the District. There are 38 seats," said Leroy Armes, 20-year veteran behind the wheel. "What does that tell you?"

Cab drivers have been lamenting fares since Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) switched the taxi system from zones to one that operates with meters. The cab industry has complained that drivers are now making less money, an average 30 percent decrease in income.

They say the current rate of $1.50 per mile is not enough. There is also a $19 cap on fares, drivers said.

By Nikita Stewart  |  June 16, 2010; 10:46 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Taxis , Nikita Stewart  
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Yawn. DC cabbies' whining will go on forever now that they must use meters and can't cheat passengers with the zone system anymore.

Posted by: checkered1 | June 16, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

The cab drivers need to understand the difference between people not hearing their complaints and people not caring about their complaints.

And if things get really bad for them, it's my understanding that the cost of living is much much lower in their native Eritrea.

Posted by: 3stars | June 16, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I would be interested in hearing the volume x cost = revenue argument. Do Bethesda and Arlington cab drivers make more or less money, or are they on par with their DC peers in terms of overall take home pay. Also, what does it cost to run a cab in DC versus VA/MD. Cab rentals are approximately 150/week in DC - while it seems that most cabs in Arlington are corporate (red top, envirocab, etc.) How does this impact take home pay?

Posted by: bgreene11 | June 16, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Once again, 8,000 hard working cab drivers have to suffer in order to protect that all important ever so fragile ego of the mayor.

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 16, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

The topic of this discussion has nothing to do with a zoning system.

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 16, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

So many negative comments have been levied against the cab drivers of late. But you seem like such a fair and intelligent blogger. Why don't you get behind the wheel and drive a taxi? I'm sure the industry could use your help in uplifting its image. But you wouldn't do that, would you? You see, those cab drivers from Eritrea are taking the jobs that most Americans won't.

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 16, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

There should be a difference in take home pay between the suburban cab driver and the inner city hacker. The hackers in DC usually start off in the suburbs as cabbies and then fight to get into DC to be a hacker. The face ID of a large city is always worth more than the face of the burbs. The Fenty administration has reversed the order by being condescending towards the hacker in an attempt to protect the fragile ego of the mayor and make up for his low self esteem.

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 16, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

DC cabs are lower cost in the region. Recently I took a cab from Alexandria to DC then a DC cab back to Alexandria and DC to Alex was way cheaper. However I have zero sympathy for DC cab drivers. For years they played games with the zone system. In addition to this DC cab drivers favor tourists and business travelers. They also frown on picking up minorities and will not stop for a person that is dressed a certian way but then a white person nicely dressed throws their hand up and the cab will stop for them in a minute. I'm white and lived in NW DC with an African American roommate once and he never could get a cab but I always could.

Posted by: larrydrakeford | June 16, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Many folks make the mistake of clumping together all "cab drivers" as if all of them think alike, act alike, and have the same level of spiritual development. If the cab drivers, on the whole, are so bad, shouldn't the government of the District of Columbia be held accountable for not selecting the highest grade drivers and screening out the bad ones?

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 16, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

For many years DC cab drivers have been cheating passengers out of a fare price. Constantly cheating the system. Now, it's their turn to pay that money back. Simple. They lived high on the hog for far too long now, time's up, deal with it or go back to your native country and try driving a cab over there.

Posted by: WesD | June 16, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Do you have empirical evidence to substantiate each claim for all 8,000 cab drivers? Give us the dollar amount and bring forth the witnesses to back your statements? And for the honest drivers in the system, should we continue to scare them away by driving the prices down?

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 16, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the cabbies should accept credit cards. I might ride more if they did.
Being forced to pay taxes would suck though.

Posted by: ashdaleuf | June 16, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I can only say that the reason why that cab rate was this low was because the driver did not take the long way around to get to where he was going. normally some drivers if they think you dont know your way around the area will to take you out of your way. tell them this is tourist season and they can make up the money there losing when they get in town.

Posted by: browneyes1 | June 16, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

The rates might be higher in MD and VA get a)a modern clean car with functioning AC, b) the ability to use a credit card, c)don't have to argue with some clown who is trying to rip you off. Bottom line is that you pay for what you get. I'm going to have trouble buying into a study funded by D.C. cab drivers. I think Fenty has a lot of problems but this guy will be voting for him again in November for the simple reason that he brought about change to the single biggest racket in town -- D.C. cabbies.

Posted by: seanmackay | June 16, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps you should address your credit card issue with Leon Swain, the chairperson of the Taxicab Commission. There are some cabbies who accept credit cards, but those changes are not streamlined here because the industry is not being run by large conglomerates like it is in other cities. But letting the little guys run things is in some ways advantageous. You get more taxicabs per capita.

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 16, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Simply because a taxicab jurisdiction is being dominated by a big cab company DOES NOT in an of itself mean that the taxicab will be of a higher quality. Look at Fairfax County before 1997. Their cabs were run down clunkers until the county came in and made it a requirement that the car be no more than 8 years old or 350,000 miles, whichever came first. The big companies will try to cut corners just the same as the little guy will. And you do get what you pay for. Look how many taxicabs per capita there are in DC. As for cheating the customer, you might want to look into the $100 million that Fenty has funneled into DPR. Fenty is the biggest racket in town. But you won't be able to vote for him in November. He'll be eliminated by September 14.

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 16, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

As you know, Einstein, gathering empirical evidence for the fact that DC cab drivers cheated passengers and the system during the zone days is nearly impossible to do. That's EXACTLY why they were able to get away with it for such a long time! I've called the DC Taxicab commission over 80 times over the past 10 years and did anything happen to these drivers, no. I've even had to call the cops on drivers for cheating me, but the cops never did a darned thing. These drivers are getting exactly what they deserve. Finally, justice! I see this as Karma for those cab driving jerks. Yay!!!

Posted by: WesD | June 16, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

If you've experienced drivers taking the long way around under a time and distance metered systems, more than likely it's due to the ineptitude of the drivers. Now, the Commission could set a firm standard and hire only world class taxicab hackers. That's the first step. But then it's going to be harder to entice them with only $1.50 per mile.

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 16, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Yes. There is such a thing as group karma, individual karma, daily karma, racial karma, etc. But the thing to remember is that the law of action and reaction works both ways. Now we have honest cab drivers in the system whose incomes have been unfairly compromised in this politicized witch hunt trial. And under law the pendulum must swing the other way.

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 16, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Either way, those dirtbag cheating cab drivers are finally getting what they deserve. "Honest cab drivers," my arse, Ha! And I've never told a lie in my life. Get a grip.

Posted by: WesD | June 17, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

It seems like the darkness of hate is dripping from the sole of some of you who will find any reason to be hateful.
The fact is that for every bad person whether cab drivers, doctors, politicians or lawyers there are nine who are good people. Are there bad apples among the cab drivers? Of course there are. Should they be punished for the bad thing that they do? Of course they should be. How about the rest of them I mean the 90% who are good people and do give you the public a good service 24 hour a day 7 days a week all year round, in the heat of D.C. summers, in the cold of winters, in the rain, in the snow, in the heavy traffic and with all kind of risks involved. Should they also be punished for something that they have nothing to do with? Or is or should the city be responsible for licensing those bad apples in first place and refusing to remove them from the system once they are caught doing the things that some of you have complaints about. Let me remind you that some the Government employees (officials) have been prosecuted for selling these hack licensees to the drivers who are not qualified to drive a cab.
I have served this city and people like you by driving in D.C. for the last 27 years with dignity. I have never discriminated against anyone nor over charged anyone. I have helped people in situations that they did not have money for the ride and I have given credit to some people based on their words that they will mail me the money for the ride, some have and some I am still waiting to get the check in the mail. I have had people in my cab who have been like angels and some who are no better the devil himself, from senators and movie stars, to homeless and criminals. I have been rubbed and I have been tipped $100. I have been insulted and I have been thanked and praised. I have been badly and permanently injured in an accident that was not my fault. (And I CAN NOT AFFORD TO BUY A HEALTH INSURANCE). I haven’t had, not even one complaint against me during the last 27 years. Why should I be punished and take this crap from the mayor down to those people who have had a bad experience with some drivers? But I guess I can understand the hate of discrimination that is installed in the mind and the heart of some people.
As one of the organizers in this struggle to bring justice to the drivers, I am not going to rest until those bad drivers are removed from the system and until the city officials take the responsibility to bring fairness and justice to the drivers and until we stop the takeover our business by the big corporations where they would enslaves the drivers and forced them to pay $100-$150 a day to just operate a cab.
Regarding those people who's hateful hearts are blinding their little pea brains, I pray to GOD to shine the light of love in their hearts and give them a little wisdom to their minds.

Posted by: JusticForTaxiDrivers | June 18, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

JusticeForTaxiDrivers, is right on point and I share with him with 42 years of service as a dc taxicab/owner/driver everything he said.>>Billy Ray Edwards yellow cab 864

Posted by: bredwards | June 19, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

JusticeForTaxiDrivers, is right on point and I share with him with 42 years of service as a dc taxicab/owner/driver everything he said.>>Billy Ray Edwards yellow cab 864

Posted by: bredwards | June 19, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

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