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Author Topic: Can we have meters like everyone else?
keokuk
Deck the Malls


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In almost every city that Iíve ever visited, cab fares are calculated based on a dashboard meter with an electronic read-out. Except here in Washington, where we have what can only be described as one of the most baffling, moronic and borderline discriminatory systems imaginable.

This is the DC taxi fare chart. If you take a cab, and your departure point is in the same zone as your arrival point, then the fare is $6.50. If your trip covers two zones, $8.80. Three zones, $12. Yadda yadda yadda. (Also, you might note that for some arbitrary reason, the makers of this map decided to put north in the upper left corner, rather than having it facing directly up like every other map ever made. But thatís a whole different rant.)

Okay, so at surface value, not that bad. Particularly because I know where all the boundaries are and can be certain to keep interzone travel to a minimum. However, in practice, it becomes absolutely unbearable. For starters, see that big zone one right in the middle? That covers Capitol Hill, the National Mall, most of the lobbying firms in town, and almost all the significant federal agencies. In other words, it serves to essentially make sure that businessmen, businesswomen, and tourists donít need to pay any of the pesky extra zone fares that residents do.

Thatís where my problem comes in. I live three blocks away from the boundary of zone one, and my favorite bar is three blocks into a zone on the opposite side of zone one. This means that when I need to take a cab, I have three options: Pay three zones to go the whole way, pay two zones after walking a couple blocks at one end, or walk a couple blocks on both ends and pay for one zone. Fair enough. No big deal.

Hereís where it gets really annoying: Zone one is empty at night. Itís mostly business, and itís pretty much cleared out on weekends. On busy weekend nights, there is no incentive for taxi drivers to take me home. I donít live by any other bars or clubs, itís almost entirely residential. That means that when leaving a bar near closing time, cabs will often blatantly refuse me service, hoping to get someone who is going closer to a place where they can pick up a new fare. It usually takes four or five cabs before I can get someone to take me home, and even then I usually have to offer them a tip big enough that it will cover the fare that they missed by driving me home instead.

The kicker? I canít blame them. Itís at the point where I honestly feel bad for taking a cab home, because I am basically forcing them lose money by making them go so far out of the way. Just the other day, I walked to the boundary of zone one and asked to be dropped off at the other boundary so I could walk home, and the driver sighed and said ďGreat, one border to another.Ē The guilt trip worked and I asked him to take me the extra three blocks so that my fare would be higher and it would be more worth his while to take the trip.

Lately, the DC taxi commission has been exploring the idea of switching to a meter system. But rather than conventional pay-by-the-mile ones, they think the better alternative is to install GPS systems into all the cabs so that people know for a fact they traveled over X number of zones and are not getting ripped off by drivers. Great. Way to ignore the real problem and cater to tourists only.

So please, can we please just get a system that lets us pay by distance? I would much rather pay more if it guaranteed that taxi drivers wouldnít turn me down because the length of my trip is costing them a second fare.

(Also, because someone will probably ask: Technically, if I ask for a trip, taxis are required to provide them. They donít have the legal option of turning me down. But in order to report it, I would have to call in the driverís license number to file a report, which is usually impossible since they keep their doors locked until they find out where Iím going. I guess I could try to take down a license plate number, but itís really just a pain to find a piece of paper, pull out a pen, and write it down in time. Plus that wouldnít have any immediate effect of getting me a ride.)

Posts: 345 | From: Washington, DC | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
ILS
Deck the Malls


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Good Gravy!!!

Makes me glad I could take the light rail anywhere I wanted to go in DC for the two and 1 half summers I spent time there.

My parents lived 3 blocks from the end of the Yellow line at the time. And being a budding geneologist, I spent most of my time at the National Archives, before they movied, at the other end of the Yellow line.

Did not even have to change trains.

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Ramblin' Dave, quietly making noise
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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I thought I smelled a pro-metric system rant here, and was all set to agree with it!

But as an ex-Washingtonian of six years or so, I'll agree with what you did write as well. I always hated that system far more than I understood it.

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Another lifetime I'd have fallen in love with you
Swept away by my feelings, ashamed and confused
But just now it's enough to be walking with you
Let the mystery play as it will! -Lui Collins

Posts: 2669 | From: Jouy en Josas, France | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
blucanary
Jingle Bell Hock


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I always wondered about that but I never took a cab in the city because I never figured out how it worked. I still don't think I will, I don't go there enough for it to matter anyways.

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I would add my signature but the pen won't write on the screen.

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asnakeny
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by keokuk:
That means that when leaving a bar near closing time, cabs will often blatantly refuse me service, hoping to get someone who is going closer to a place where they can pick up a new fare. It usually takes four or five cabs before I can get someone to take me home, and even then I usually have to offer them a tip big enough that it will cover the fare that they missed by driving me home instead.

(Also, because someone will probably ask: Technically, if I ask for a trip, taxis are required to provide them. They donít have the legal option of turning me down. But in order to report it, I would have to call in the driverís license number to file a report, which is usually impossible since they keep their doors locked until they find out where Iím going. I guess I could try to take down a license plate number, but itís really just a pain to find a piece of paper, pull out a pen, and write it down in time. Plus that wouldnít have any immediate effect of getting me a ride.)

In NYC, it is illegal for taxi drivers to refuse any intra-city fare. The Taxi Limousine Commission is very strict about enforcing this: they routinely send out undercover agents to monitor compliance (of this and all taxi rules) and fines for refusal are very steep (repeat offenders can lose their permits.)

Furthermore, all taxis are imprinted with the cab number (a four-character number/letter combination) on numerous places on the outside of the cab (including the doors, roof lights, and near the license plate). Furthermore, the TLC hotline number is listed in all cabs and police officers and MTA emplyees are trained to have that number available as well.

Sorry the District of Calamity has such a crappy taxi system!

--------------------
Is here no telephone?

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tagurit
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Ramblin' Dave, quietly making noise:
I thought I smelled a pro-metric system rant here, and was all set to agree with it!

Me too!

I don't know if they had the same cab system back when I use to travel to DC for work, but it did seem like the cabs were expensive. Though, that may be because cabs are expensive in DC, period. I usually only took a cab from the airport to my hotel and return, then used the Metro exclusively during my stay. Aren't you near the Metro, keokuk?

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Explore, enjoy and protect the planet
---
AAMAH

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keokuk
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Ramblin' Dave, quietly making noise:
I thought I smelled a pro-metric system rant here, and was all set to agree with it!

Funny that you say that. When I first typed in the subject, I looked at it for a second and thought, "Hmm this could end up some people looking for a metric system thread. Nah, I'm overthinking."
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AuntNene
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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In my particular town we have taxis that run on the meters and then "limos's" that run on zones. I have found more times then not that the "limos" are cheaper by far
Posts: 11 | From: London, Ontario | Registered: Aug 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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I can't believe they still have that system. It really is moronic. I've had the other problem there: fares that are really high and the driver feels guilty and has to get out the map and show me that we really did cross that many zones and crossing fewer zones would have taken me far out of my way.

(I also thought this was going to be another thread advocating the metric system! But the two are kind of related: America tends to be very conservative. The motto is something like: "Even if it is broken, don't fix it until it drives you absolutely crazy.")

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keokuk
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by tagurit:
Aren't you near the Metro, keokuk?

I'm pretty close to the Metro. This is usually only a problem when I'm, shall we say, completely plastered and don't feel like walking to and from the Metro stations.
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Jocko's Jolly
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by asnakeny:
quote:
Originally posted by keokuk:
That means that when leaving a bar near closing time, cabs will often blatantly refuse me service, hoping to get someone who is going closer to a place where they can pick up a new fare. It usually takes four or five cabs before I can get someone to take me home, and even then I usually have to offer them a tip big enough that it will cover the fare that they missed by driving me home instead.

(Also, because someone will probably ask: Technically, if I ask for a trip, taxis are required to provide them. They donít have the legal option of turning me down. But in order to report it, I would have to call in the driverís license number to file a report, which is usually impossible since they keep their doors locked until they find out where Iím going. I guess I could try to take down a license plate number, but itís really just a pain to find a piece of paper, pull out a pen, and write it down in time. Plus that wouldnít have any immediate effect of getting me a ride.)

In NYC, it is illegal for taxi drivers to refuse any intra-city fare. The Taxi Limousine Commission is very strict about enforcing this: they routinely send out undercover agents to monitor compliance (of this and all taxi rules) and fines for refusal are very steep (repeat offenders can lose their permits.)

Furthermore, all taxis are imprinted with the cab number (a four-character number/letter combination) on numerous places on the outside of the cab (including the doors, roof lights, and near the license plate). Furthermore, the TLC hotline number is listed in all cabs and police officers and MTA emplyees are trained to have that number available as well.

Sorry the District of Calamity has such a crappy taxi system!

It is illegal in DC as well. And the cab numbers are prominently displayed. Keokuk just doesn't always want to take the time to jot down the information (cab company, cab number, etc.). However, I suspect that once you do, the cabdriver would be a lot more likely to let you in. Keep in mind that there are a LOT of lawyers around DC!! [Big Grin]

The Metro is very good. And if you're willing to walk a few blocks to catch a cab, why not for the Metro (unless it's late enough that the Metro's closed).

And the one REALLY good thing about DC is that there is an abundance of cabs around. When I worked downtown, it was quite easy to catch one. In some other cities like, say, BALTIMORE, they are scarcer than the proverbial hen's teeth and you really need to call one for pickup rather than take your chances out on the sidewalk. And the local hotels that have cab stands can get kind of territorial if you poach on them, since their guests might need one. [Mad]

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Like every good third-in-a-series it contains a whole load of ewoks, ĎClubberí Lang, whey-faced Sophia Coppola, Sean Connery as the Pirate Captainís estranged dad, a crappy CGI alien, and Richard Pryor on a donkey. -- Gideon Defoe

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keokuk
Deck the Malls


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I never really thought about it, but I would probably get picked up a lot more often if I just carried a notepad around with me and pulled it out as soon as they refused the fare.

I generally take the Metro whenever possible. The problem is when I'm out late enough that it's closed or don't feel like waiting on weekends. (While it runs very frequently during the week, it's often a ten minute wait at the platform for a train on the weekend.)

It's funny. I'm very spoiled. I'm originally from New York and now live in Washington, so I am incredibly spoiled with public transportation. Both have great subway systems and cabs are abundant everywhere. I should probably be grateful that I'm in a city that doesn't require me to drive anywhere, but these little imperfections could be so easily remedied that I can't help but complain.

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Doug4.7
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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My Dad told me that DC went away from the meter system because cabbies would drive their fares all over town to increase their take. So they passed the zone system to stop that.

It's for your own good... [Wink]

--------------------
And now for something completely different...

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blucanary
Jingle Bell Hock


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I've heard from some people that DC Cabbies will sometimes go out of the way to cross an extra zone to run up fares. Especially with tourists. *shrug*

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keokuk
Deck the Malls


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I would think that the zone system would make it easier for cabbies to rip people off. With a dashboard meter, a taxi driver would have to physically go out of the way for an extended period of time to draw up an additional fare worth the trouble. In the zone system, a tourist could easily be manipulated and just pay whatever he or she is told to at the end of a ride.

Something I've noticed is that they never tell you the fare unless you ask. For me, it's no problem because I know the zones and just give them the cash or ask for x dollars in change to cover the tip. But let's face it, someone going from a tourist spot to a hotel asks what the fare is, that means there's a good chance they don't understand the sideways-map in the taxi and will just pay whatever is asked.

(This is part of the reason that they've suggested implementing the GPS meter that I mentioned in the original post. The idea is that it marks the starting point, the end point, indicates the number of zones and prints a receipt.)

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Don Enrico
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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Sounds horrible indeed - you should write to your Congresman about it! No, wait ... [Wink]

Seriously: This is a strange system! I understand your anger.

Don Enrico

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My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling, but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places. - Pooh Bear

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remigo
Deck the Malls


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It's interesting that this topic came up now, because, as of today, the whole country of Ireland is changing into one big cab zone. The new, legally-enforceable, method of charging for taxis has caused uproar and strike action from the cabbies, even though I get the impression that fares will actually go up.

quote:

The new basic fare of Ä3.80 during the day and Ä4.10 at night, supplemented by distance or time-related charges, will apply to taxi journeys nationwide.

Extra charges, including airport and luggage charges, will be abolished.

It seems the main problem is that nobody really understands what this means yet, and many of the drivers don't have the new meters required.
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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by keokuk:
(Also, you might note that for some arbitrary reason, the makers of this map decided to put north in the upper left corner, rather than having it facing directly up like every other map ever made. ...)

(Tries to resist) Gaaah!

Actually having north at the top of maps is a relatively modern and western convention... medieval maps centred on Jerusalem and normally had east at the top... it wasn't until the 16th century or so that North at the top was more usual.

(Phew.) Sorry.

Your cab fare system does sound stupid though!

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Doug4.7
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
Originally posted by blucanary:
I've heard from some people that DC Cabbies will sometimes go out of the way to cross an extra zone to run up fares. Especially with tourists. *shrug*

The idea was that it did not matter HOW the cabbie got from point A to point B, but that point A was in zone X and B was in zone Y. He could go from the White House to the Capitol via Manassas and the fare would be the same (single zone).

As for ripping off tourists, that is easy no matter what system you use. If it is a zone, you just lie about which zone you are in, and with a meter, you just take them on a wild tour of DC (to run up the meter).

If you know where the zones are, you can lower your cost by doing some walking.

When my Dad worked in DC, he LIKED the zone system because he knew the borders and could calculate the fare EXACTLY before he got in the cab. He knew when a cabbie was trying to rip him off.

I guess for business people and Congressmen, the zone system is good while it is not so good for some residents of DC. So as long as you residents have a vote in Congress...oh wait, I forgot, you DON'T have a vote in Congress... [Roll Eyes]

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And now for something completely different...

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Gibbie
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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The problem with the meter is that it runs *all the time* even when you're just sitting in traffic. Though, late at night, that's not much of a problem. Zones are much better when it takes 45 minutes to go across one zone.

keokuk, hail the cab, get in, *then* tell them where you're going. That's what I always did. They're much less likely to turn you down once you're already ensconced in the back seat.

Gibbie

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If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

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keokuk
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Doug4.7:
When my Dad worked in DC, he LIKED the zone system because he knew the borders and could calculate the fare EXACTLY before he got in the cab. He knew when a cabbie was trying to rip him off.

See, that's why I thought I would like the zone system. I can walk a combined five blocks on both sides of a trip and cut a three-zone trip into a one-zone trip. Except then cabbies either get irritable or don't want to give me a ride because I'm making them go on the longest possible single-zone trip that is available in the city.
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keokuk
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Gibbie:
keokuk, hail the cab, get in, *then* tell them where you're going. That's what I always did. They're much less likely to turn you down once you're already ensconced in the back seat.

That's what I always try to do first, especially because it puts me in a position to see their license also. But a lot of the time they will lock the door until you tell them where you're going through the window.
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