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Zones or Meters?

October 9, 2007

This was news to me, but DC may abandon the city’s unique “pay by the zone” taxi system for a more conventional metered fare system. The move is opposed by virtually all of DC’s cab drivers, and seen as the first step in major, government-dictated change to the industry.

The taxi drivers in the city say the change will increase bureaucracy and government regulation and stifle entrepreneurship and small business ownership. They worry about the consequences of the city requiring a special permit for taxi drivers. Most of DC’s cab drivers are independent contractors as opposed to employees of a large taxi company:

When they came to this country, to the nation’s capital, driving a cab offered treasured independence, a way to preserve dignity in a daunting place. For a few thousand dollars, they could buy an old police car at auction, repaint it and go into business for themselves. They could provide for their families.

I don’t know if the change will be good or bad for me personally. I don’t really take cabs all that much, and honestly will not miss an extra dollar or two. I like small businesses and all else equal prefer to frequent them over large corporations. If the drivers are right, and this is the first of many changes toward a more regulated, less competitive industry, I don’t like it. The changes would also make this sort of thing much less common:

“Washington is really blessed because of the ratio of educated cabdrivers, probably the highest in the country,” said driver Gedle-Kirstos Asayehegn, who is working on a master’s degree, his second, at Johns Hopkins University. “I work at the airport, I’ve got wireless Internet in my car, and I do my schoolwork while I’m waiting on customers.”

Also of note, the change is being pushed by a Michigan senator who said he was “tired of getting complaints from constituents who were confused by zones.” I know I speak for most DC residents when I say that in general, tourists are a sorry lot. It really is not that complicated of a system. Their inability to grasp the system should not be grounds for scrapping it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. gedle permalink
    December 11, 2008 9:58 pm

    DC taxi cab system has minor errors. The main failer is the taxi cab commission, which didn’t punish the few drivers who made the many look bad. The commission may have purposely left them because it wanted to convince the public that the only way to fix the system was my scraping the zone system. It was accumulating many complaints with out calling any of them. A meter system is worst. A tourist may be taken for a joy ride. It has happens often in New York City. As a result, airport to city has been decided to be flat rate. DC had the best system that atracted good drivers. Now the quality of drivers is going to be down graded. Many professionals did enjoy driving partime. After this it wont be worth their time.

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