A No Brainer for Fenty

Tomorrow, Mayor Fenty has to make a decision between keeping the existing crappy zone system for taxis or requiring them to begin using meters like they do in every other major city. If he fails to make a decision, legislation by Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) will make the choice for him and require meters to be installed in all cabs.

According to the Washington Post, “81 percent of frequent riders rated the city’s cabs as fair or poor” and are generally in favor of doing away with the zone system. It’s hard to argue with those numbers, but it’s easy to argue with a cab driver when he says a 5 minute trip will cost you $13 because it’s rush hour and there is a gas surcharge and the moon is full.

As you have probably guessed, I’m also in favor of installing meters in cabs. Sure, it won’t always work out in your favor, but at least you know you’re being treated fairly and the driver isn’t picking a fare out of thin air. The drivers of course are protesting this change because they’ll more than likely see a decline in income, but I say welcome to the real world where you have to play by the rules.

If anyone has any arguments for the zone system I’d love to hear them, but in my opinion, Fenty has an easy decision to make.

Photo by zeul

26 Comments so far

  1. RumorsDaily (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 10:22 am

    The zone system benefits the few riders who are zone-ninjas. The ones who know all the boundaries and will walk the extra block before hailing the cab or after the drop-ff to ensure that they’ll get the cheapest rate.

    I, on the other hand, am surprised by the rate every time. Bring on the meters.

  2. Tiff (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 12:19 pm

    The argument goes that the zone system prevents you from having the meter tick tick tick away while you’re sitting in traffic. Which, okay, I can see that argument… but I’m with you. I figure I get screwed by the zone system about as often as I would get screwed by a meter, so it all evens out in the end, and meanwhile, both the driver and the passenger benefit from having an objective machine spit out the number at the end. You can WATCH the meter tick by… it can’t surprise you.

  3. RumorsDaily (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

    Plus, you always have that issue of traveling to a non-zone area where the drivers simply make up a price. That’s awful.

  4. Max (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

    I had to catch a cab from DCA to Dupont last Friday night. By mistake a Virginia cab picked me up (which is illegal) and he was using a meter. It turned out to be cheaper than if I’d used a DC cab, $15 vs $18.

  5. Dianne in DC (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

    I live on 21st street, which is a zone boundary. If I’m coming from Georgetown, it costs an extra dollar to come to my door. I’ve been using the Blue Van to go to the airport. Even if they have to call you a taxi it is only $9. The zone system was designed to make it cheap for Senators to come home from Capital Hill.

  6. Mr F (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 4:05 pm

    Virginia cabs can pick up in DC, assuming that Virginia is your final destination.

  7. Max (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 4:16 pm

    True, but Dupont Circle is not in Virginia, therefore illegal.

  8. Mike Licht (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

    Meters – real meters – will also reduce the DC police budget, as the shouting and shoving matches between cabbies and irate riders that erupt in the wee hours each weekend will be drastically reduced.

    Of course, some folks will miss the free street drama . . . .

  9. Mike Licht (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

    Meters – real meters – will also reduce the DC police budget, as the shouting and shoving matches between cabbies and irate riders that erupt in the wee hours each weekend will be drastically reduced.

    Of course, some folks will miss the free street drama . . . .

  10. Mr. E (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 4:30 pm

    If you take cabs during high traffic periods, like the ever-lengthening rush hour, the benefits of having a zone system are clear: the fare is relatively certain when you get in the cab, and there is no incentive for the driver to take a slow, high-traffic route just to inflate your fare. When I take taxis while traveling in other cities, it often appears that half the fare (or more) is accumulated while sitting still — in traffic jams or at traffic lights. Under our zone system, that’s not a concern.

    Those who think that meters are somehow "objective" just because you can watch them tick are deluding themselves. Meters are subject to tampering — in Boston, I watched the fare on the identical route between Logan Airport and my apartment fluctuate by as much as 50% even during low-traffic, evening trips based on variations in the metering. And with a meter, there’s no way to argue the fare, whereas if you are experienced and familiar with the zone map, you can contest the fare or at least alter your tip based on the driver’s adherence to the proper zone fare.

    Mayor Fenty’s idea to use "zone meters" is a good one — although I suspect they, too, will be subject to tampering.

  11. Kristen S (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 4:31 pm

    Y’all ain’t very smart if y’ain’t gettin’ the fare tole to ya before sittin yore asses in the seat.

  12. Kristen S (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 4:32 pm

    Y’all ain’t very smart if y’ain’t gettin’ the fare tole to ya before sittin yore asses in the seat.

  13. John Whiteside (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 4:55 pm

    "Zone ninjas?" Here’s how you become a "zone ninja": you look at the map.

    It will be great in about a year when everyone’s complaining about how much they hate the meters.

  14. marti (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 4:58 pm

    It sounds like the arguments for the meter system boil down to "I don’t know how the zone system works."


    Yes, walk that block past U (or Florida) to avoid an extra zone charge. Call BS on the driver if he makes up a weird fare. Be smart.

    Don’t mess up a good thing by being lazy.

    The zone system works for customers *and* drivers-imagine that! Or have you people been conditioned to believe that a solution only works if it works only for you?

  15. Max (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

    Guy/Gals, saying "learn the system" is like saying "read the Patriot Act" before making a phone call or "read the tax law" before you do your taxes. Who wants to know the zone system inside and out, then read the sticker on the cab’s window to calculate the per person cost, then add in a gas surcharge fee if gas prices are "too high", etc.

    The point is, taxi drivers screw people over left and right with the zone system and easily get away with it. A meter system tells you your price straight up.

  16. sdc (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 5:33 pm

    If we do get metered cabs, I do feel a *little* sorry for tourists that will get screwed by drivers that take the long way to a destination. This happened to me in Chicago and I was really pissed.

  17. em (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

    I know the zone system pretty well, but that doesn’t stop me from having to argue with cab drivers about their random made up prices. I’d love to take the stress out of the situation.

    And on the price point– I work in Arlington, and cab to the Hill pretty often. And everyone in my office knows that it’s about $3-4 dollars cheaper to get there than to get back…

  18. Prontovega (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

    Action….. debate…..I love it. Can’t we still allow kissing in the cabs though?
    I like that I live in Denver where I can just get on my horse if I need to go somewhere!

  19. Prontovega (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

    That last entry was a little joke…just checking to see if anyone got it.
    If you compare the cost of buying a car,paying for maintenance, repair, insurance, gasoline and finding a place to park…it doesn’t seem like paying a few extra dollars for taking a cab is a big deal on which ever system they use.

  20. KCinDC (unregistered) on October 17th, 2007 @ 12:30 am

    SDC, what’s keeping those poor tourists from being screwed now under the zone system?

  21. Anya (unregistered) on October 17th, 2007 @ 11:10 am

    Um, DCA is actually in Virginia–Arlington Co., to be specific–therefore it would be completely legal for a Virginia cab to pick you up there, regardless of your destination.

  22. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on October 17th, 2007 @ 11:35 am

    Actually, no, Anya, it wouldn’t. DC-area Airports are required to use Washington Flyer cabs, which are metered, coincidentally.

  23. Max (unregistered) on October 17th, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

    As I understand it, both Anya and Tom are incorrect.

    Anya – Virginia cabs can pick you up from DCA but have to take you to a Virginia address. It’s illegal for them to take you to a DC address like Dupont Circle. Also, it’s legal for them to pick you up in DC but they have to take you to a Virginia address, so a VA cab could TAKE me to the airport but not take me home.

    Tom – I don’t believe there’s any regulation on which DC cab company you are allowed to take to and from the airports. I’ve taken many non-metered DC cabs to and from DCA.

  24. Don (unregistered) on October 17th, 2007 @ 12:57 pm

    You’re both right and both wrong. Washington Flyers are indeed the only cab you can take out from Dulles."Washington Flyer Taxicabs serve Dulles International Airport exclusively with 24-hour service to and from the airport. Taxicabs accept American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Discover Card, and Visa, and provide transportation at metered rates to any destination in metropolitan Washington."

    National, on the other hand, lists no such restriction on its site. However the indication is that cabs from MD, VA, AND DC will bill you by the mile, though the DC cabs will do it based on odometer reading.

    And you thought zone was prone to fraud! I can’t read an odometer from the back seat.

  25. Prontovega (unregistered) on October 17th, 2007 @ 3:06 pm

    Is anybody actually tracking where these cabs go by GPS. That may be the wave of the future. The technology is already here. You went from point A to point B. No zones, no meters. You covered this amount of distance. That doesn’t factor in the amount of time it took for the trip though which could add more expense to the operation of the cab company.
    Come on computer wizards! Somebody should be able to figure this problem out.

  26. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on October 17th, 2007 @ 3:40 pm

    I’ll be damned, Don, I thought Wash Flyer was National *and* Dulles.

    I stand corrected.

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