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When arriving passengers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport queue up for a taxicab, they can pick up a flier with a map outlining approximate fares to various exotic area locations. To prevent unscrupulous hacks from overcharging, for example, the sheet prices a trip to the Springfield Mall at $21, the Fairfax County Administration Building at $26, and the Hyattsville City Hall at $19. Also included are hot spots like the National 4-H Headquarters ($18) and the Avenel Country Club ($21).
On the other hand, if you’re headed to the Frederick Douglass Home, Fort Dupont Park, or the Anacostia Museum, you’re at the mercy of your cabbie. What do all of those sights have in common? They’re all east of the Anacostia River, in a part of town even a lot of locals have a way of forgetting. The map, in fact, doesn’t have a single District location east of the river. It’s an omission that has a lot of folks hopping mad.
“This is not a recent phenomenon,” says Ward 7 resident Gregg Rhett, a candidate in this year’s at-large D.C. Council race. Rhett says that in the past, D.C.’s office of tourism gave out maps that didn’t include the areas east of the river. “Every taxpayer should be appalled,” he says. “They’re simply dismissing the existence of fellow citizens.”
Airport spokeswoman Tara Hamilton says the map was based on a survey of area transit patterns. But it wasn’t exactly a scientific study: According to Hamilton, the map’s sample destinations were generated by airport cabbies themselves. “We brought in a focus group of drivers to give us their most requested destinations,” she says. “We were not given any suggestions of typical sites east of the river.”
Blaming the drivers doesn’t cut it for many trans-Anacostia residentswho already know how hard it is to get a cab home. “Oh, please,” fumes former Ward 7 Councilmember H.R. Crawford. “The one thing you don’t ask a cabdriver is anything about Southeast. They don’t even want to come to Southeast!”
When Crawford looked at the map after flying home from the West Coast last week, he stared at the blank space east of the Anacostia. “It was just sort of a slap in the face not to be recognized,” he says. “They just couldn’t include good old Wards 7 and 8. They have to understand that we’re very sensitive about that.” Crawford wound up using the Suitland Federal Center ($18), District Heights ($19), and RFK Stadium ($11) to triangulate the fare for a ride to his Hillcrest home.
While cabbies insist that east-of-the-riverites rarely pop up in airport taxi lines, they’re at least represented on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board, the citizen-overseers who are supposed to think about how policy affects real people. Authority Vice Chairman Carolyn Boone Lewis, who lives in Good Hope, did not return phone calls.
Crawford, meanwhile, is trying to get the airport to fix up its map. “I gave [Hamilton] several places,” says Crawford. “I gave her the aquatic gardens in Kenilworth, the Sousa Bridge, Bolling Air Force Base, St. Elizabeths Hospital….We do have some sights.”
Hamilton says airport authorities are holding hearings in mid-September about airport taxicab service and will take the suggestions to heart when making new literature. “We’ll add any sights that travelers would be likely to go to east of the river,” says Hamilton.CP