DC Cabs To Get Meters Like The Rest Of The Country

Illustration for article titled DC Cabs To Get Meters Like The Rest Of The Country

Years ago I made the rookie, post-collegiate mistake of taking a cab in Prague. Burning a hole in my pocket were 700 or so Czech crowns, the then equivalent of five bucks. I only had a mile or so to go, but the cabbie started driving all over the place, eventually taking me far up into the hills. As the meter clicked past 670 crowns, I showed him I only had 700. He stopped the cab, got out and chucked my backpack ten feet down the slope. As luck would have it, I had $50 US on me. Suddenly he started speaking English, "No problem, no problem," and even retrieved my grimy, mud-caked backpack. When we got to where I was going (he made a beeline), he plucked $40 American dollars and a 100 crown note from my hand. He even smiled. And if you've ever taken a cab in DC, you know that not only will they bilk you for more, but you will never, no matter what get a smile. Until now.

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Soon, the obscure, impenetrable zone system will be as much a part of our nation's capitol as Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove, John Ashcroft, Ari Fleischer, Tom Delay, Larry Craig Donald Rumsfeld, Scott McClellan, Collin Powell, Andy Card, Tony Snow and Scooter Libby. That is to say gone. DC Mayor Adrian Fenty is planning on signing something that will force area cabs to adopt meters, just like everybody else. Will anyone lament the demise of 10-block, $27 rides? Besides Mr. T? [bizjournals.com]

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DISCUSSION

I'll spin a yarn about a DC cab experience: coming from Adams Morgan to Dupont after an evening of merriment, I got a cab with a friend who lived about three blocks from me and dropped her off first. We get to my place and the cabbie wants to charge me double because we were two passengers (and because of the zone system, cabbies in DC are allowed to pick up other passengers along the way and charge them separately). Of course she wasn't another passenger, we were sharing a cab - and the rule in DC is that passengers can request two dropoffs within five blocks from each other..

Anyway, cabbie starts demanding a double fare and I refuse, explaining the rules to him. He gets so agitated he gets out of the cab to come around and .. I don't know, pull me out? beat me up? Who knows! The guy was seriously mad. Afeard for my well-being (and not particularly interested in getting in a fight with a cabbie, as soon as he jumps out of the car I locked his door, and mine of course. Now the cabbie's running around outside his cab (engine running) screaming and pounding on the car. I take my time, carefully count out the exact fare and dump it on the front seat, then I called the police and told them the situation. I waited until he was on the other side of the cab from my door and popped it open and made a quick dash for my door while informing him that I had called the police and that they were on the way. Given the choice between duking it out with me until the cops came or just leaving, he decided to jump in the cab and scoot.

I don't know that anything ever happened to him (I doubt anything since the cops never called me back) but that experience has given me no sympathy for cab drivers in DC. I'm glad to see they're getting away from that stupid zone system that was really only in place to allow the cab drivers to abuse passengers in many different ways.