D.C. taxi fare hike starts Saturday
By Rachel S. Karas,
Whether taking a cab to the Hill or past the Beltway, residents and visitors alike may be surprised to find that their wallets are a little lighter.
Beginning Saturday, the taxi mileage rate will increase to $2.16 per mile from $1.50. Taxis will still charge a base fare of $3.
Some cabdrivers said they are concerned that the new D.C. Taxicab Commission regulations will affect not their profits but their passengers. John, a driver who asked to remain anonymous to protect his job, said the fare increase takes away the incentive for picking up large groups of passengers or those with suitcases.
Under the new regulations, a $1-per-passenger fee may be charged for the second, third and fourth members of a group riding in a van. The maximum additional passenger fee is $3 per trip, which John said would leave groups of five or six customers on the curb.
“They have this idea of making D.C. taxis like New York taxis,” John said. “There’s no comparison.”
Taxis will now charge 50 cents per piece of luggage that the driver places in the trunk. Briefcases, purses, bags of groceries and other items of similar size are not considered luggage, according to the commission.
Some drivers see fare increases as a reality of urban transportation.
“I think it’s good,” cabdriver Paul Bankett said. “Things are going to change anyway with progress.. . . People just have to learn to deal with things like this.”
One resident who identified herself only as Margie suggested that the commission needed to do a better job of explaining the price changes to the public to help avoid sticker shock.
Although several people said the change might be good for driving people toward the use of public transportation, former D.C. resident Sarah Connolly said public transportation is not always a viable option on weekends, when track work and crowds make the Metro more difficult to use.
Connolly, who visits on weekends, said the increase probably would not affect her travel in the city.
“I usually just take [cabs] pretty short distances,” she said. “It might not make a difference.”
Commission members have brought up using the fare increase to improve cab services, such as installing mandatory credit-card-payment systems. While some people said being able to use credit cards would make cabs more convenient, others said the funds shouldn’t come from passengers’ pockets.
“The credit card companies should pay for it since they’re the ones making the business,” said Ash Kamath, who was in Washington on business. “It shouldn’t be the taxicabs or the government; that’s subsidizing.”
Kamath said he uses D.C. taxis at least three or four times a week but will be less inclined to hail them at the increased rate. Instead, he said, he would “absolutely” turn to public transportation if not pressed for time.
Not all cabs will be charging the higher fares at once, commission Chairman Ron Linton said. Taxi companies that applied for recertification by the city’s deadline received committee-approved security seals and can be preprogrammed so the new fares take effect Saturday, he said.
Drivers whose cabs were not recertified on time did not receive seals early and will have to go to one of eight authorized shops for recalibration after the fare increase takes effect.
Taxis will not be ticketed for failing to recalibrate until after May 31, Linton said. Until then, taxis that have not been recertified may run their meter at $1.50 per mile.
Most drivers are waiting to see whether the increase in price per mile makes up for losing other fees, such as the $1.50 charge for dismissing a cab hailed by phone, the $2 “personal service” of a cabdriver, $2 for carrying “trunks or similar-sized large articles” and $1 for carrying small animals not enclosed in a carrier.
“They made a mistake. . . . I don’t see this as an advantage,” said John, the cabdriver. “Everyone in the region charges for extra passengers; everyone in the region charges for luggage.”