Okay, so I’ve been pretty hard on the taxi industry lately. In a column and blog posts, I’ve noted that D.C.’s cabs provide a subpar level of service compared to cities that have widespread use of GPS and mobile credit-card technology. And the industry’s leadership has been less than interested in addressing the issues, focusing most of their lobbying efforts on securing a fare hike.
Well, they have a point. The Post’s Peter Whoriskey has investigated the economics of the D.C. taxi industry, and he confirms that city taxi rates are low not only for the regions but for the nation.
Consider, for instance, the cab fares for the 26-mile trip from downtown to Dulles Airport.
Heading there in a D.C. cab, the fare is about $43. The reverse trip, meanwhile, costs about $55.
Why the difference? The return trip is under Virginia rates, which are higher.
Finally, while $12.50 might be considered a “living wage,” as independent contractors, cabbies do not get health benefits or, for that matter, pensions or workers’ comp. Sitting in traffic day after day can causes a range of ailments, from stiff joints to hypertension — and cabbies say it takes a toll.
The piece is accompanied by a very cool interactive graphic comparing taxi rates in various American cities.
There are some caveats to the chart: It compares base rates only; it doesn’t include extra passenger or luggage fees, wait time, or the $1 gas surcharge that’s been in effect in D.C. since March. But sticking to the base rates is the best way to get an apples-to-apples comparison.
Ron Linton, chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission, reiterated to Whoriskey that he’s open to a fare hike. He’s told me in the past that he expects a hike to be accompanied by new service mandates.
“What I don’t yet know is, ‘What is a fair raise?’” he said.