World Fares: Taxi, Please
Count me among the multitudes who think that D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty made the right call when he decided that the city's cabs must switch over to meters from the weird, antiquated zone system that's confounded the world for decades.
One thing that's struck me in the pro-meter argument is the overriding belief that D.C. needs a good cab system to project its position as a world-class capital city. And, boy, who can argue with that? The first thing many first-time visitors to our city face is the Mysterious Shifting Cab Fare. It seems as if it never costs the same to make an identical trip in this town.
If you travel much, or at all, you get the sense that other cities do it (much) better. Say what you will about New York cabs, but they're everywhere, and cheaper. If you've been there lately, the newest innovation is a bit off-putting: Cabs are being outfitted with GPS systems and credit-card readers. A lot of drivers aren't happy in the Big Apple about this development. In this case, I'm with them, but only because I find the devices distracting. The little panels show you where you are on a map (which is cool), but in the cab I was in, the flat-screen monitor was showing ads and a TV show as well. Just too much going on, when I'd rather be looking out the window or chatting with the driver.
And how many among us remember cab trips almost as fondly as the vacation itself? Sometimes, they're intricately linked. I remember the cabbie who saved our trip to Portugal last year when he returned my wife's wallet, which had fallen out of her purse. He refused a tip; we literally threw money through his car window as he sped off. In Lima, a cabbie dodged a huge street protest and drove us down dirt roads to get us to the airport on time. Turns out he didn't know we were in a rush: He just needed to pick up his kid from school.
So are we pro or con metered cabs? And when you get to a city, how important is the taxi system anyway? Any stories to share?
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