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Monday, August 06, 2007

Thinking About: D.C.'s Cabs

Before getting to the substance of today’s post, I must confess a bias: I don’t like D.C.’s taxi cab system. Compared with the taxis of London (where the cars share a uniform look, are meticulously clean, and are driven by knowledgeable, attentive drivers), D.C.’s cabs serve as poor ambassadors of our Capital. Compared with New York's metered fare system, D.C.'s zone system can make for expensive travel. That many drivers speak on their cell phones during the entirety of rides is understandable (I can imagine it gets boring sitting behind the wheel all day) but not very professional. Finally, I have no idea what to make of the numerous cab companies trolling our streets: U.C.C. Cab, Grand Cab, Pan Am Cab, Anacostia Cab, Freedom Cab, Red Top Cab, Silver Cab, and Consolidated Cab are just a few of the many companies (it seems they all call themselves “associations” rather than companies) I witnessed on my walk to work today.

All that said, on Friday night I was refused service from in front of Whole Foods to my home in Shaw (roughly a six block venture; also known as easy money for the cabbie who picks me up). This is not the first time I’ve been refused service back to my home, and the M.O. of the cabbie was similar to prior experiences: cabbie pulls over to my hailing self, with the doors locked and window down cabbie asks where I am going, I tell cabbie the cross streets, and cabbie says no and pulls away. On Friday, I yelled about the impropriety of him refusing me service, yet he whisked away unpersuaded.

I jotted down the cab company on his rear passenger door (Silver Cab) and the cab number (I’ll withhold pending my complaint’s resolution). I looked online today for instructions on how to file a complaint with the D.C. Taxicab Commission (available here) and am going to submit a complaint in writing. I’ll let you know if I have any success. Perhaps if we are more diligent about reporting these incidents, cabbies will be less inclined to refuse service.

After being refused service, another cab picked me up and happily took me home. He was incredibly nice, engaged me in conversation, and told me to report the guy who’d refused service.

I had a great weekend and hope you did too. Happy Monday!


Clara Barton Dweller said...

Honestly, I have never seen a city where taxis are as reluctant to pick up riders as D.C. I'll stand on a busy downtown street, trying to get one, often to no avail. They never even stop to ask where I'm going - they just speed up to blow by me. And I'm a blonde, white girl often wearing a business suit - just FYI for data-gathering purposes.

The one exception is if I am pulling a suitcase or wheely bag. Then, 10000s of them practically drive up on the sidewalk, across 5 lanes of traffic, trying zealously to pick me up. And this is when I'm not even trying to hail a taxi.

So if I actually need a cab, I usually go to a hotel (the Hotel Monaco and Mayflower are my favorites).

How do they make money?! Just on airport fares?

nbdinz said...

I'm getting dizzy...

PAN AM CAB ASSN (just as bad as the defunct airline)

LUCKY CAB ASSN (not so much)


PRIDE CAB ASSN (I wasn't proud of that stinky stationwagon)



A. AHMAD CAB ASSN (not too bad, but smelled bad inside)


MERITT CAB ASSN (the Civic #358 is funny)



RITZ CAB COMPANY (not Ritzy at all)

LUXURY CAB COMPANY (they rarely stop for people they don't know)

FIVE STAR CAB ASSN (felt more like two stars)



I've been working on a DC cab photo gallery... entitled 45,492 different companies. With new Camries, Galants, Priusi (?!), Explorers, and old Passats entering the DC cab market I don't think I'll ever get it online!

Kari said...

That happens to me all the time! I thought listed on the Taxi Riders Bill of Rights posted in the back - they were not allowed to deny service! I tried to find the list..but can't seem to.

anthony said...

If you think getting from 14th & P to Shaw is bad, try getting a cab from NW to NE, SW, or SE. You even say the words "Capitol Hill" "Eckington" or "Southeast" and the window is already up before you've even finished uttering the first word. Some have told me that the trick is not to tell the cabbie where you are going until you've sat down in the cab, but do you really want to get in a cab if you have to ask the driver to unlock the door first? The taxi system needs to change in DC. I'm sure it would hurt cabbies in the short term to consolidate under one system with common standards, but it would probably benefit residents and tourists. $1.00 for this, $1.50 for that, a gas surcharge here, a passenger surcharge there... what an impossible mess!

Anonymous said...

Try getting a cab from the airport in Minneapolis and the majority Muslim drivers refuse to transport you because they think you are carrying liquor or have imbibed liquor, are blind and have a seeing-eye dog, or "look" like a homosexual.

Anonymous said...

agree, the cab service in this city is a disgrace. i live at 2nd and u NW and have learned never to tell where I am going until i'm in the cab, or lie until i'm in the cab then pull out the camera phoen and threaten to call the cops once i tell them the truth.

Anonymous said...

Re: Refusing service -- It only applies once you're in the cab, from what I understand. I've complained to the cab commission after I was (essentially) thrown out of a cab, and got no response, and I was in Friendship Heights, going to River Road. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Good luck with the Taxi cab commission. My experience is that they do not weild much influence. One reason is that the majority of cab drivers are private entrepreneurs or independent contractors. Many of them don't have citizenship. I know because I once helped represent a group of them... can't choose your bosses clients.

One of the most disturbing facts I learned was that these people can spend so much time parked at major buildings and transportation hubs without first obtaining security clearance. At least one company says it requires a security check but I learned it was not enforced.

In a city so concerned with homeland security, you would think there would be tighter regulation of taxis.

nbdinz said...

I think I'm going to go buy the ugliest, dirtiest car I can find (maybe a Dodge Dy-Nasty) and become a cab!

I'll become... 32nd NW CAB ASSN

Mr. Ray said...

Don't expect to find a cab during the next terrorist incident in DC -- or expect anyone to answer a 911 call, either. DC ain't NYC. You're on your own here. Just make sure there's air in your bike tires, because if 9/11 is any judge, you don't stand a rat's a$$ chance any other way of getting out of Dodge while the cabbies are doing their jihadi dances in the street.

Anonymous said...

"if 9/11 is any judge, you don't stand a rat's a$$ chance any other way of getting out of Dodge while the cabbies are doing their jihadi dances in the street."

That seems more than a bit unnecessary.