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The Monday Rant: Fare Play in a D.C. Cab?

John Deiner

I haven't flown out of Reagan National in quite some time, but a few weeks ago, I was surprised to step into the cab line and -- just before a taxi whisked me away -- be given the sheet of paper you see here. On it is listed the approximate fares you should be paying to numerous locations around town and outside the Beltway.

At last! Now I could see in advance how much money I needed to assemble for the driver. Normally, I would have taken the subway, but I was late for work so I decided to cab it. I asked the driver to take my wife and me to the Madison Hotel, near The Post building.

On the sheet, it lists the fare to the Capital Hilton, about a block and half away from The Post, at $11.

I figured with the $1.75 airport fee, maybe some extra for the bag in the trunk, maybe some hidden gas surcharge I'd forgotten about, the total would come to about $15.

When we arrived, the driver looked down at some chart and mumbled "19 dollars"; if I hadn't been buckled in I would have fallen out of my seat. I protested, showing him the sheet and wondering how there could be that big of a difference, but he just shrugged and refused to respond. I'll admit it: I should have fought harder, but I've never come up on the winning end of a dispute with a cabbie, and I was tired. I just wanted to get away from him.

Now that I've given that sheet a better look, it lists all sorts of fees that are applicable (I don't pretend to understand them). There is a line that states, "Your actual fare may be different than the amount shown on the map," but doesn't that render the map useless? On the back, it indicates that you should always ask your driver for a receipt showing the driver's name, the driver's I.D., the cab company name and number, and the fare paid.

Has anyone ever gotten that out of a D.C. cab driver? I usually just get a little slip I have to fill in myself before I'm dumped at my location.

To its credit, the sheet lists an address where I can send a complaint -- provided I have all that information that I've never gotten from a D.C. cabbie before.

I say: Bring on those meters, and the sooner the better.

Anyone out there with a similar experience? How did you handle it?

By John Deiner |  February 25, 2008; 7:28 AM ET  | Category:  John Deiner , Monday Rants , Travel Logistics , Travel Survival Tips
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Wait, cab drivers ripping people off? Next at 11; sky reportedly blue.

Posted by: Liz | February 25, 2008 8:29 AM

Wait, cab drivers ripping people off? Next at 11; sky reportedly blue.

Posted by: Liz | February 25, 2008 8:33 AM

DC cabbies are the WORST. They've ripped me off coming back to VA a few times.

Sometimes it's $20 - sometimes $25 - one time it was $40. What a joke.

The best policy until the meters come is to just negotiate a fare before you get in. Arguing with DC cabbies is 100% useless because a large portion of them don't speak english or "understand things" very well according to my personal experience.

Posted by: freq traveler | February 25, 2008 9:17 AM

Of Course DC cabs overcharge for trips from National to the district, just like they do for trips from the district to VA or MD - and they've been doing it for years. They've had the sheets of paper at DCA like the one you mention for at least the past five years, and it doesn't stop the cabbies from still pulling this type of BS. This is why the meters are long overdue.

Posted by: adub | February 25, 2008 9:51 AM

Just offer the correct fare (assuming you know it is correct) or pay the total with no tip.

I can't wait for those meters.

Posted by: M Street | February 25, 2008 9:52 AM

Can we tell Marc Fisher to read these?

Posted by: Wash Post reader | February 25, 2008 11:01 AM

Actually, the problem is -- surprise -- the map is all kinds of wrong. They've apparently mislocated the Capitol Hilton to actually be on the Hill. Also note they've places it to the East of the Convention Center, which is clearly wrong.

Also, if you check Yahoo Maps, the distance between DCA and the Convention Center, even using their circuitous route, is only 4.4 miles, so it's actually closer than the "Capitol Hilton".


Posted by: WoW | February 25, 2008 11:17 AM

No surprise here. There are few people less trustworthy in Washington then the cabbies. I would have politely given him the money that he was owed, and left the cab.

Posted by: Jon | February 25, 2008 12:43 PM

I thought it interesting that the sheet specifically excludes the $1.75 airport fee. If it is designed to show fares FROM THE AIRPORT, why not add in the airport fee?

Posted by: Julia | February 25, 2008 5:03 PM

Good point, Julia: My thoughts exactly. And I'm terrible about reading anything in a moving vehicle . . . I just zeroed in on that one number and figured that was going to be it.

Posted by: John Deiner | February 25, 2008 5:08 PM

Don't expect any help from the DCTC if you complain.

I faxed and emailed a complaint after a cab driver verbally assaulted me when I questioned his route to my destination. I asked him to pull over and as I was trying to exit the cab, he started to pull away. I nearly fell (and here I should add that I am pregnant a fall would be dangerous).

The driver did not display his license number or name and refused to provide the information. All I got was his license plate number.

I've thrice contacted the DCTC in the three weeks since filing my complaint and received no response whatsoever. They simply don't seem to care that a menacing driver with anger management issues continues to work.

Posted by: Melissa | February 26, 2008 1:25 PM

I've fought with 'em before too. From Union Station to Logan Circle is somehow 17 dollars. I asked why it was more than 9 and he said rush hour, and I was like, rush hour ended two hours ago. Then he claimed bags in the trunk - bags that I lifted myself. I fought for about 10 minutes, through the money at him with no tip, wrote down the cab number and phone number and left with my luggage.

When I called the number the next day, the phone number had been disconnected. Bring on those meters!

Posted by: Michael | February 27, 2008 1:01 PM


I think that cabbies continue to rip everyone off because they keep getting away with it! People like you sucker up and give it to them. Cabbies don't have to fight often enough for their ill-gotten gains so they continue over-charging. Thanks.

Posted by: Thomas | February 27, 2008 2:06 PM

I understand that sometimes a taxi is absolutely necessary, but I have saved myself money and unnecesary headaches by using the metro and buses. A trip that would take 10 minutes by car, takes me half an hour or more, but I REFUSE to give money to a taxi driver. Besides overcharging, there is also the problem that they drive dangerously and always talking on the cell phone. My husband was almost killed by a reckless driver on his way to DCA.

Posted by: Mara | February 27, 2008 2:24 PM

I once had a cab drive try to charge me double fare two hours after the weather advisory, that was the cause of the legitimate increase, was over. I just pointed out he was wrong handed him the correct fare and got out. They assume that riders won't challenge them and we, as passengers, aren't confident enough in our knowledge of the complicated system to hold our own in a fight over the fares. The meters will be a welcome change.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 27, 2008 3:48 PM

I can't wait for the meters! I've lived in DC for 40 yrs. & never figured out the zone system! I can go from 13th & N to the Folger Library at 2nd & E. Capitol for 1 zone, but it's 2 zones to 25th & M for those 12 blocks. I now drive and street park or garage park for $12 versus the $25 w/tip round trip to my doctor's office.

On 2/04 I was flying to Ft. Lauderdale. I learned the night before that DC cab drivers were "striking" that Mon. I called Red Top who will come into DC if you are going to VA. The cab & its meter arrived at the precise time and took me to National for $11 (+ a generous tip). On my return 2/12, during the ice storm, I and 3 other people were jammed into a DC cab. The 1st passenger was dropped at a hotel at 9th & H across from the Convention Center & charged $25, I was next at 13th & N & charged $20. Who knows whar the remaining passengers were charged. Bring on the meters!!

Posted by: JD in Logan Circle | February 27, 2008 9:55 PM

Just about every cab ride I have is an unpleasant experience where I end up fighting about the fair. Cab drivers consistently try to overcharge me and tonight when I disputed paying $15 to go from Dupont Circle to Cleveland park (about 2 miles straight up Connecticut) the cab driver yelled at me that I was a nasty woman and that is why I was coming home alone with no man. so they overcharge you and insult you. Its terrible that you don't feel safe getting cabs in this city.

Posted by: Sherry | March 8, 2008 5:23 AM

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