Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dirty Fighting Aginst Fair Fares

First of all, I want to offer my sincere apologies to Prince of Petworth. I had no idea that he had also posted a pic of Run-D.M.C. this week until Mr. 14th & You told me about an hour ago.

On to cabs . . .

I sat through 12 citizen comment periods and one statement from Peter Nickles, the General Counsel to the Mayor. Around 6:15 I just couldn't take it anymore. I'm surprised that I made it that long given that the first word I heard while walking in during the middle of one person's testimony was "gentrification."

A Little Preamble:
The Mayor's office has proposed time and distance meter regulation based on a number of surveys and citizen feedback. This proposed legislation will go into a 60 day public comment period tomorrow. Why do I think that Jim Graham was just trying to be first into the fray by holding his hearing this afternoon?

Community Testimony
Of the 13 people whom I saw speak only two were cogent, a representative of DC Residents for Reasonable Taxi Fares and Peter Nickles who as an appointee has full grasp of what Fenty is trying to achieve. Both of the above parties are in favor of time and distance meters. One other gentleman was also in favor of meters; he kindly summarized his AU thesis citing 1930's court precedents. Let's just put him in the less cogent category.

Graham's Real Agenda
Jim Graham wants zone meters. His logic seems to be that everyone likes the zone system and the fares, but if we just had a more transparent way of tracking fares, everyone would be happy. He also made a vague threat that if he and the Mayor's Office could not come to agreement that Graham would spearhead legislating the issue.

Graham's cab driver friends, in between making some odd and unrelated and incoherent comments, also seemed to be in favor of zone meters. If you would like to test the zone meter experience for yourself, Yellow Cab has already installed them.

The Riders' Conundrum
Graham has couched this entire debate as not about money; "There's no rebellion about current fares." Apparently, even the cab drivers aren't claiming that they want to make more money. (Again, this is Graham's summary of his understanding of the testimony.)

DC Residents for Reasonable Taxi Fares counters that logic. As of this evening, they had 850 signatures on their petition which had only circulated for 24 hours. They also have 42 pages of citizen comments that have been entered in the record. This group's concern is that on average the time and distance meters fares will be $0.97 higher than the zone fares. In Virginia, they say that riders will be paying 20% less than in DC and 32% less during rush hour.

If you, like me, have a problem with the drop fee and the surcharges, you need to let Graham and the rest of the City Council know. Graham is also planning on hosting other similar forums in locations outside of the Wilson building; we can't let the cab drivers overrun other residents at these meetings.

Odd Comments and Observations
Aside from the usual honorifics Graham was also called "Congressman Graham" and "Counsel Graham" by some of the cab drivers.

From a cab driver who had already spoken well past his alloted time: "Anyone waiting on a cab at two in the morning isn't gonna give a doggone if the cab is running on two wheels."

From Sandra Seegars, 8E-02 ANC commissioner:"Meters legitimize cheating." Um, isn't the cheating part of the equation what brought us to this round-table discussion?

One of my favorite semi-circles of reason: no DC cab can presently accommodate electric wheelchairs —> cab drivers need to be grandfathered in to hack licenses with a face value of $200,000 —> that $20000 asset will allow them to secure loans for . . . —> wheelchair lifts. Oh yes, Mayor Fenty is arrogant, and somehow not having fixed zone rates would prevent cab drivers from providing two years of tax returns to financing institutions in order to obtain . . . wheelchair accessible cabs.


Anonymous said...
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odentex said...

My concern all along has been that DC's "unique" system allows for an exceptionally high number of cabs to be on the streets for such a small town. Having lived in a much larger city dominated by a few (i.e. 3) well-financed cab companies I can tell you that such a scenario is neither cheaper or better for the stranded customer. First, it is clear that the proposed meter system with a minimum charge isn't going to save customers anything significant, and if it results in small fry cabbies going out of business it will mean a lot waiting around in the cold for cabs that will never, ever, come. I don't presume to know enough about the economics to be certain of what this change will mean to the little guy cabbie, maybe more money, who knows? But it is equally clear that proponents of the meter don't know either and are typically only concerned about this (i.e. Senator Levin) because they are too f'ing stupid to (a) look at a map and know where they are going, or (b) tell the cabbie in at the begining of the ride "2 zones, right?" and holding him to it. Zheesh.

14th & You said...

From what I heard last night, we have about 6500 cabs in DC. Seemed high to me too. I also heard a lot of calls from the cab industry for further study. It's a very nuanced conversation including everything to the most desirable fare to the fact that there is only one provider of zone meters, possibly leading to a higher price for the equipment. The 60 day comment period should be really interesting.