I was a big fan of switching over to a metered system for D.C. cabs until recently, when I read about the effect meters would have on fares for Washington residents east of the river. I may grumble over paying $10 to travel a few blocks, but I don’t want my bargain to come in exchange for busting the wallet of a dog-tired swing-shift worker from Southeast. From what I can tell, most cabbies are opposed to any kind of meters because it would make it easier to track their income. Sorry, dudes.
It seemed like a great big depressing impasse until a saint of a cabbie picked me up at 4 a.m. this Sunday morning. First of all, the guy let me in without asking my destination. He also swung back around to scoop up a friend who would have been in for a dismal wait. We all got to talking about the great fare debate and he said the solution is simple: a zone meter. Sure, it won’t cut us poor journalists a break, but it will offer a measure of transparency. Which is really all I want. No more taking advantage of the constant influx of newbies. And the system wouldn’t mess with the affordable rates for D.C.’s working poor.
It wouldn’t, of course, solve the other problem: cabbies passing over anyone other than groups of white kids traveling a few blocks. Our driver did express disgust at the rampant discrimination but reminded us you can do something about it. A recent fare of his had gotten snubbed by a cab, wrote down its number and called the police. The driver had his vehicle towed. I was really surprised it was as easy as that. So get your pencils out next time you’re hailing a taxi.