Regarding “Uber: When cabs whiz by, it’s a pick-me-up” by Clinton Yates, Sept 28.
I want to assure Yates and anyone else who has been refused a ride by an on-duty taxi driver, the D.C. Taxicab Commission (DCTC) will do everything in its power to prevent that refusal. We call that action “failure to haul,” and it’s against the rules.
Since I have been chairman, we have vigorously cracked down on this denial of service. It makes no difference what the reason is for refusing a ride. Some drivers say it’s because they won’t get paid; some say that it’s not economical because they don’t get a paid return fare; some who get refused say it is because of their race even though most drivers are people of color.
The commission doesn’t care what the excuse is because there is no acceptable excuse. A taxi driver who is seeking a fare must haul whoever hails, regardless of whether the person is wearing a shirt and tie or not. For the twelve months ending Sept. 30, the commission received 255 complaints for “failure to haul” violations. Previously, this violation resulted in a fine of $250, however as of Aug. 17, the fine for “failure to haul” is $500.
Passengers need to be aware of their rights. When a cab is hailed and stops, the passenger should open the rear door and enter the cab. Once seated, tell the driver the destination. The driver does not have the right to ask your destination before you enter and are seated in the vehicle. Once in the vehicle, the driver has no right to put you out. If the driver was on call or off duty, then the driver shouldn’t have stopped.
We are going to make it more difficult for D.C. taxis to refuse to pick up with a standard dome light for every D.C. taxi. When the driver is seeking passengers, the dome light will say “taxi for hire,” and if the driver doesn’t stop when a person hails it; that action would constitute a “failure to haul” violation. The vehicle’s DCTC identification number will also be highlighted in the dome light. A person who is passed by will need only to note that vehicle’s ID, call our new 24-hour toll-free number, 855-484-4966, and report the taxi’s number, location and time. A hack inspector will start looking for that vehicle to issue a ticket. The new dome light will also easily identify illegal vehicles. If it doesn’t have the dome light, it is not a D.C. taxi.
It may take some time to educate the riders on their rights and the drivers on their obligations, however, the commission insists everyone should get the ride they want, whether it’s in a prearranged sedan or street-hailed taxi.
The mission of the commission is to ensure that D.C. citizens and visitors receive a safe, comfortable, efficient and affordable transportation experience in public vehicles-for-hire that are well-equipped and operated by qualified individuals who adhere to a standard of high-quality customer service.
Let me also assure Yates that no one is putting Uber — or any other of the electronic-dispatch companies providing taxi rides in the District — out of business.
In fact, the commission is encouraging electronic dispatch and expects a growing number will offer services here in the year ahead. In a few years, it will be a rare sight indeed to see anyone on the street with their hand up yelling “taxi.” Just about everyone will use an electronic application for a ride.
The commission intends to encourage the spread of that technology. It should be noted that just because Uber's president and chief executive doesn't want to play by the established rules governing taxis in this city, it doesn't mean those rules are inherently unfair. Other companies that are planning to offer electronic reservation services in the District don’t seem to have the same problem as Uber. We want to encourage competition so that passengers are not limited to using only expensive alternatives.
Linton is chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission.
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