Blog written by Cory Sealey
To anyone who has never had the joy of paying $12 for a five minute cab ride, Washington has a cab fare system which is reliant upon “zones” encompassing different parts of the city. The more zones you cross while in a cab, the higher the price of your ride. Many see this system as unfair and promotes dishonesty in cab drivers. A number of drivers go out of their way to take the route passing through the most zones when a straight shot to your destination would be less expensive.
I have been taking cabs for more than 10 years. The majority of the time I took a cab, I would be charged inconsistently or incorrectly. I knew the city streets like the back of my hand, so if a driver ever wanted to take a “shortcut” into another zone, I would quickly correct them. Occasionally, when you called the driver’s bluff, they would get upset and try to spin their detour as an honest mistake and still demand the extra fare. I have been threatened by cab drivers for refusing to pay an incorrect fare and have friends held hostage in the back of cabs until either they pay whatever the driver demands or the police show up. All of this is being spun by the cab drivers as “Washingtonians don’t care about the working men” does not make for a great relationship between the cab drivers and the people of DC. It is a shame there are some drivers who are soiling their industry’s reputation.
All 7,500 independent D.C. cabs must operate with meters starting April 6. Under this law, DC would also have the nation’s most expensive flag drop rate, $3 for just getting in a cab. Many drivers have emerged in opposition; spinning the idea that a meter system will bankrupt them. This is in spite of the fact Maryland and Virginia cabs employ meters and happen to be doing fine. The cab drivers decided to strike on the day DC residents vote in the presidential primary and have more strikes planned for the near future. If you want to lose sympathy, strike on Election Day… in the Nation’s capital… full of people with careers dependant on the election. Super smart idea. Not only are they coming across in major news outlets as con-artists, but also as annoying. Some ideas left on the Washington Post comment boards include, “Consumers can strike too, no tips for cabbies”, and “The cab industry in DC needs regulation fast. These rogue drivers need to be run out of town”. Many of my friends still in DC are refusing to tip drivers who plan on participating in the strike. It’s already common practice to not tip your driver if they attempt to take you across a zone line if it’s not needed. This is being met with the moans of drivers who insist they will end up in the poor house or in some extreme case, with verbal assaults. The amount and methods of spin employed by the drivers are losing them sympathy and support. I am sure this is not exactly the response they wanted. What the cab drivers need to do is accept the fact a golden era for them is over and their planned strike and general attitude towards their passengers needs an overhaul not additional spin. Until then, I hope they carry exact change.