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Posted at 9:19 PM ET, 09/19/2010

Why cabdrivers opposed Mayor Fenty

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Ken Williams
Washington

I read with dismay the story on the role of the taxicab industry in the mayoral election [“Cabbies rally to drive home a Gray win,” Metro, Sept. 15]. It is unfair to say that drivers opposed Adrian M. Fenty and supported Vincent C. Gray because drivers resented the switch from a zone to a meter system. They have embraced the new system because it reduces confusion and conflicts with passengers. Drivers opposed Mr. Fenty for five primary reasons:

  • The Fenty administration has denied them fair representation on the Taxicab Commission, which governs their livelihoods. Neither active operators nor ardent advocates for them are on the commission.
  • The administration set the meter mileage rate at the lowest in the country, forcing many drivers to work 12-hour days.
  • The administration shut down the Taxicab Commission for eight months, precisely when the commission had unanimously decided to raise the fares to reach parity with those in surrounding counties.
  • The administration refuses to address persistent issues of what drivers feel is harassment and abuse through excessive ticketing and towing by the city’s taxi hack inspectors.
  • The administration continues to claim broad, unilateral authority over the cab industry under what it calls “the Levin Act” (it’s really a clause in another law), even though meters have been fully implemented. Our group contends that the administration is in flagrant violation of local statutes, the Home Rule Act and the constitutional and human rights of the drivers.

Finally, I am concerned about the continued framing of this issue by the media and political establishment in ways that appear intended to be dismissive of drivers because of their national origin and place of residence.

The writer is a member of Justice for D.C. Taxis.


By washingtonpost.com editors  | September 19, 2010; 9:19 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., D.C. politics, HotTopic  
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Comments

Folks,
Ownership Rights in the Historical, DC Hack/Taxicab System is a major issue thats not talked about because it's the Emancipation of African American issue of Ecconomic Freedom from Slavery.

This Subject is too deep in the first place for the DC Government to Handle, but the US Congress can, thats the issue I want to take too Capitol Hill.

>>Peace and Love>> Billy Ray


Posted by: bredwards | September 20, 2010 2:06 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Ken Williams for speaking up and helping to set the record straight. I've already started the countdown. We've got 104 more days until Fenty's butt is out of office.

Posted by: starclimber9 | September 20, 2010 2:36 AM | Report abuse

Ken Williams, would you please speak for yourself when you make statements about drivers' "embracing the meters"? A statement closer to reality might be something to the effect of drivers' understanding that now that the meters are here, it would be extremely difficult to go back to zones. Congress probably would not allow it, for one.

Meters do not reduce conflicts with passengers, marry sirrah, they carry their own set of conflicts. Among the favourites of passengers are: 1)telling drivers that they usually pay an amount two to five dollars less than what the meter reads; 2) complaining about the route that the driver takes AFTER he is so committed to it that he can not alter it. The passenger could tell the driver his preferred route when he announces the destination, but this would not give that passenger the opportunity to chisel the fare.

One thing that I noticed when I came from Virginia to drive in the City was that there were fewer fare arguments. Since the web arrived and Crackberries and other mobile web capable devices became common, it became much easier to settle disputes. The DCTC website had a zone fare calculator on it.

Other than the 'embracing of the meter' statement, I am not in disagreement with you. But please, Ken, stop stating that most drivers have 'embraced' the meter; this is not the case. Perhaps many drivers to whom you have spoken have done so, perhaps this point is something that your organisation has agreed to put forward to the public, but it does not reflect what most drivers think about the meters.

We opposed Fenty first, because we did not approve of the meters, but, mostly, we voted our purses. As Ken correctly states, Fenty hit us in the purse, and hard. Any voter will vote against someone who has hurt him financially. Fenty's arguments for the low fares and the socialist fare cap are cop-outs, baseless and hold no water.

Posted by: grophusharris | September 20, 2010 5:09 AM | Report abuse

This was the clearest explanation I've ever read as to why an organized group would oppose a political candidate. The labor unions could learn a lot.

Posted by: MissV | September 20, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Fenty's move about regulating cabs was to benefit the citizens of DC by implementing fairness in fares, and trying to reduce cabbies taking advantage of passengers.

Posted by: 10bestfan | September 20, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

10bestfan obviously has not read the orginal post nor my comments. The fares that Fenty imposed are hardly fair to the drivers. The mileage rate is seventy five per cent of what it is in the suburban jurisdictions. Salt Lake City, Utah and Washington are tied for the lowest mileage rate in the United States, although the cost of doing business and of living is much higher here than it is ANYwhere in Utah. The mileage rate is sixteen and two thirds per cent lower than what the old Interstate Rate was before Fenty put these horrid contraptions into our vehicles. The last time that the Taxicab Commission imposed a gasolene surcharge, one gallon of regular gasolene was $2,31. The Chair of the DCTC, using his imagined 'emergency powers', removed it when Regular was at $2,97. Regular has been above $2,31 for some time, yet I have not seen the DCTC Chair use his imagined 'emergency powers' to re-impose the surcharge. Finally, there is a cap on City fares on nineteen dollars for trips in one direction. This means that I am compelled to drive customers for free, at times. If there are numerous stops en route, I am compelled to wait and drive without compensation. Thus, I am forced to subsidise my customers with no recompense from the Authorities. In fact, the Government has increased markedly the fees that we must pay. Further, the Enforcement Branches harass us.

Any system where the provider subsidises the consumer meets the textbook definition of socialism. Being compelled to work without compensation meets the textbook definition of slavery.

How would Fenty like it if we capped his pay at nineteen dollars per hour? How would hotel operators like it if the Government told them that they could charge no more than nineteen dollars per night for a room? How would restaurateurs like it if the Government told them that they could charge no more than nineteen dollars for a meal?

Oh no, these fares are HARDLY fair to the drivers.

Posted by: grophusharris | September 20, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse


10bestfan wrote:

"Fenty's move about regulating cabs was to benefit the citizens of DC by implementing fairness in fares, and trying to reduce cabbies taking advantage of passengers."

No my friend, Fenty's move was merely one more act of paternalistic treatment. It prompted more by Mike Bloomberg than anything else. He may have had other ulterior motives, too.

As a consumer, I preferred the zone system because it meant if I traveled through three zones at 10:00 a.m., the fare would be the same if I traveled those same three zones during the height of rush hour.

With meters, that fare could be doubled if one is stuck in gridlock.

Posted by: sheridaw | September 20, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Hi Grophusharris, I've talked with hundreds of drivers, and they all say they are fine with the meter (most say they like it), but there are differences on what KIND of meter, and of course on what the rate should be.

ken

Posted by: kwilliam1 | September 21, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Dear Grouphusharris
I am one of DC cab drivers who is surprised by your comment and experience.
You said, "Meters do not reduce conflicts with passengers, marry sirrah, they carry their own set of conflicts. ... Complaining about the route that the driver takes AFTER he is so committed to it that he can not alter it".

This indicates you are one of those bad drivers either who do not know their job or who ripe-off the customer by following the most indirect route. From a driver point of view, your complain is strange and invalid. If you are innocent and follow the most direct route, no reasonable customers complain about meters.

My best advice: Communicate with your customers. Give them a choice. If you do not want to talk to your customers, you can post a notice in your cab such as "Please notify the driver in case you have specific route to follow".

Finally, I want to thank Ken. Yes all my friends including me love meters. Meters provide transparency and avoid conflict.

Posted by: usee | September 21, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

grophusharris,
Please stop trying to impersonate a DC cab driver. I do not think you are a real driver at all. Because, most drivers prefer the shortest route (trip) and as many trip as possible. Every driver knows long route do not worth as such due to low mileage rate and other factors. Even the customers know this very well.

Posted by: usee | September 21, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I am so sick of these Fenty supporters who are attacking everyone. Please, do us all a favor and move.

Move to Arlington, Rockviile, I do not care. Just take your messed up, nasty attitude out of here.

Posted by: bosslady1 | September 22, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Dear usee,

Your AD HOMINEM attacks are baseless and made without a knowledge of whom you are attacking. I have had a hacking face in the District of Columbia for over twenty five years and had one in Arlington for four years. I have been behind four different microphones for over twenty five years and am currently behind two. During that time, two formal complaints have been submitted to the Public Vehicles Branch/DCTC about me, both of which were ruled unsubstantiated. When it comes to the cab business, I know it.

Your statement about most drivers' preferring the short route is on the right route, but is missing something. A more accurate statement might be that it is a myth that taking the scenic route or getting stuck in traffic pays off for a driver; yet, the riding public puts much faith in this myth. The more knowledgeable driver is aware that it is still in his best interest to get his fare to the destination as quickly as possible and move on to his next fare. This is one reason for the meter drop; i.e. to encourage the driver to move the customer to his address with despatch so that the driver can collect another drop.

My experience over the years has been that most passengers prefer to give the driver the address and have him drive. Most passengers prefer not to be asked how they want to go. The more snarky of them will tell you that it is your job to know the way. The sad thing is that you DO take the route that you know to be the fastest or most direct, but they have a different idea as to the more direct or faster route. Rather than tell you up front, they wait until you are committed to protest.

I have considered a sign, but you know how the public is about paying attention to signs. Or do you?

To be sure, there are those who will direct you block-by-block, whether you want it, or not, but, for every one of those, I have encountered one who tries to chisel the fare by protesting either the route or what is on the meter.

My statements do not indicate anything that you assert. How do you back up such statements? You fail to substantiate any of your statements about me; you simply make them and expect that readers will accept them as fact.

Are you one of those drivers who has never run across a baseless complaint from a passenger? I have held positions in cab company offices where part of my job was to deal with complaints from the public; I have run across more than a few baseless complaints.

I will not state what your so-called 'best advice' indicates.

Please stick to facts and lay off the name calling.

Posted by: grophusharris | September 22, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

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