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Posted at 5:41 PM ET, 02/22/2011

Gray to lift $19 cap on fares, says taxicab chairman

By Nikita R Stewart

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) has ordered the Taxicab Commission to lift a $19 cap on taxicab fares, according to commission Chairman Leon Swain, who testified at D.C. Council oversight hearing Tuesday.

Gray's instructions to adjust the city's rulemaking to lift the cap is in keeping with the D.C. Council's removal of the cap that was supposed to go into effect in October. Then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), however, circumvented the council and ordered that the cap remain in effect. He was backed by an opinion by then-Attorney General Peter Nickles that Congress had given the mayor the authority to change the local taxi industry from a relatively rare zone system to the much more common time-and-distance meter system and to impose the cap, which limits fares within the city to $19.

During Gray's successful election against Fenty, the taxicab drivers supported Gray.

Swain said in an interview that the rulemaking changes could take about 30 days. "It is still in effect until we complete the process," he said.

Drivers were outraged in 2007 when Fenty announced the switch from the zone system to meters. Since meters went into effect the next year, drivers have complained that they are making less money. The removal of the cap could result in an average of $2 to $5 more for drivers per trip, according to estimates.

By Nikita R Stewart  | February 22, 2011; 5:41 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Taxis, Nikita Stewart, Vincent C. Gray, vincent gray  | Tags:  Leon Swain, Vincent C. Gray, cap, fares, mayor, meters, taxicabs, zone  
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So, is there a new cap? This is ridiculous! Before the meters, cab drivers routinely attempted to over charge me.

Posted by: DCJUSTICE | February 22, 2011 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Gas prices have gone up substantially.
I think a $25 cap for the next three years is fair.

Posted by: localgoober | February 22, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Great move for Mayor Gray! Fenty had an all-out-assault on minority, small businesses.

Posted by: GoldCoast | February 22, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Great idea localgoober

Posted by: DCJUSTICE | February 22, 2011 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Mayor Gray - I was just thinking to myself, in this ridiculous economy, how can it be *easier* for a cab driver to rip me off? The ONLY way I'd support an increase is if EVERY DOLLAR over the current $19 cap that is collected went to the commission that hears complaints. I had to call the police once to settle a dispute with a cab driver who overcharged me (back in the days of the zone system) for a ride home and threatened to run me over if I didn't pay. The cops showed up and said that it was a civil matter and that I should take it up with the Commission. Five appearances later, I won by default when the driver refused to show up and defend his shameless actions. Let's put some meat in that committee before we take that meat out of consumer's wallets. How much did the cab drivers give your campaign, anyway?

Posted by: hill_guy | February 22, 2011 9:24 PM | Report abuse

No other city has a cap on their meters. So why should we?

Posted by: starclimber9 | February 23, 2011 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Hill Guy:

Taxi drivers showed up in droves to elect Vince Gray as individual volunteers. They are not an organized group of laborers or an association of businesses.

Rather, they are mostly independent business owners, mostly immigrants, and mostly people who simply took advantage of their right to participate in our democratic process.

Yes, the zones were bad. Yes, they are gone. And yes, you have a good point about strengthening the commission. That's happening, along with the lifting of the business-hindering cap placed only on one industry.

The process will work it all out, just as long there is some understanding, including of your experience, and a little patience.

Seeing cab drivers give voters free rides to the polls for their mayoral candidate in September was simply beautiful.

Posted by: tcs1999 | February 23, 2011 12:14 AM | Report abuse

I played around a stature commemorating The Emancipation Proclamation as a child in Washington DC, I learn the first dollar put up for this stature in Lincoln Park was donated by a former Slave Women from Virginia.
And if you read the back of the statue it Say's "The Emancipation Proclamation was a Military Necessity"
It's not been a time of war since the Civil War until now have Washington DC had the kind of threats of terrorist attacks from around the world as it has today especially from the dc taxicab industry said, Louis Richardson, the former chair of the DC professional Taxicab Association to the DC City Council, Department of Justice and FBI.
Now if you all want to talk about Emancipation and a Military Necessity for Security in Washington DC, a good place to start is with the DC Hack/Taxicab Industry as it relates to the African American Community.
This Civil War issue of Slavery and Emancipation is still the issue for the great grand children of former slaves locked up today for drugs when they owned no boats, Airplanes or trains to bring these drugs in to America, are due to be released soon and will need
Economic Freedom for food and Shelter for there family as African Americans in Washington DC, had since 1837 to 2007.
Why do people want to come from around the world to drive a hack/taxicab in Washington DC on the backs of African American?
A better life.
The DC Taxicab Industry was the First and Last Free Enterprise System in America for the African American Community Until 2007 the first time in Washington DC, Hack/Taxicab Owner/Driver were not able to buy a house in the city with the installation of meters at the lowest fares in the United States.
The Washington DC, Government has allowed people to come from around the world to drive a hack/taxicabs in Washington DC, on the backs of young African Americans and put them as whole back in to Slavery by selling licenses out the back door and taking independent licenses to do business in the city from grandfather owner/drivers, bribing our politicians to legislate us out of the industry.
We have ask the government over the years to purge the dc taxicab industry of all the illeagals that the FBI, CIA and Justice Department can check there files from the day they enterd the country and take in consideration our Young African American they can check from the day they were Born in America.>>Billy Ray Edwards, a 45 year Committed DC Hack/Taxicab/Owner/Driver.

Posted by: bredwards2002 | February 23, 2011 1:23 AM | Report abuse

I used to drive a cab while I was in college. so I know it. Just lifting the $19 cap by itself will be meaningless for cabbies. As a matter of fact, there are rare occasions to reach the $19 cap. Unless Mayor Gray’s reform will follow by matching the mileage rate with the region, this will do nothing by itself in order to compensate the driver. Why?
AA/fuele price is rising. A year ago, as of February 2010, the average national gas price was $2.65. Today it is 3.14, an increase by 19%. It is forecasted the rise will continue in the near future due to geo-politics and global instablity. That means the driver is losing more than 19% of his income due to fuel cost.
BB/In addition, the cost of living also is rising. On average food price, utility, and other groceries rose by 10 – 20% during this period of time while the income of cabdriver remain constant. Even the metro and airline industry regularly raised their fare within a year due to fuel cost. They charge different rates during time of high demand. Why not cab drivers? I hope a prudent person would easily realize what kind of partial treatment the system imposed on cabbies. I hope Mayor Gray would be one of those prudent and reasonable persons.

Posted by: usee | February 23, 2011 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Hahaha...Fenty gives millions in contracts, jobs, and tax breaks to his buddies, but won't even budge a penny on the $19 cap.

Posted by: bluebellknoll | February 23, 2011 9:23 AM | Report abuse

The real racket is the surcharge per passenger. The fare cap definitely cut into cabbies' profits in certain situations. During rush hour, for example, it can take the better part of an hour just to go a few miles.

Posted by: smart-aleck | February 23, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I don't take cabs very often, but my 23 year old daughter does and she says that cab drivers have been reluctant to take longer trips and some even refuse to go where she wants to go (our home is in the city but near the D.C. line). She would gladly pay a few bucks more, especially when she is travelling late at night.

Posted by: tacard1 | February 23, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

On balance, I think it is fare the cap be removed but..I strongly urge Mayor Gray to put in place a better consumer complaint process.

Posted by: CultureClub | February 23, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

When Fenty used his position to help those that voted for him, it was special privileges.

When Gray does it, it is "fairness". Money talks, elections are paid for, and what one man is called a sarcastic "king" for doing, the other is lauded for doing.

I am not against lifting the cap, nor am I against raising the rate (gas does go up).

But I have lived here for almost 20 years, and before the meters, the same trip cost different amounts based on the cab driver. (and yes, I knew the zone system well). Scam city.

Since the meters, cabbies refuse to go to the inner burbs, EotR or outer DC. Scam city.

Mayor Gray I await to see how you enforce anything - it will be fascintating to witness.

Posted by: Greent | February 23, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

If a cabbie can't drive through D.C. for less than $19 dollars, they're going the wrong way.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 23, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

If they actually stopped to pick people up they would have no trouble making money

Posted by: nmoses | February 24, 2011 9:42 AM | Report abuse

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