Union Station steps up late-night enforcement to quell cab chaos


Amtrak police Sgt. Kevin Dauphin directs bleary-eyed passengers to taxis April 30 as they get off the last trains from New York and Boston in the early morning hours at Union Station in Washington. (Doug Kapustin/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

The District’s taxi cab commission and Union Station officials are implementing a plan to quell the late-night chaos that greeted weekend travelers trying to catch cabs.

The changes were apparent at 2:30 a.m. Monday, when a late-night dispatcher helped to facilitate cab sharing. Passengers waited in a single-file line cordoned off by a pink barrier. An Amtrak police officer and at least two D.C. police cars also circled the station to ensure that cab drivers were following the rules.

The changes were enacted days after The Washington Post detailed bedlam on the weekends late at night at Union Station. Without hack inspectors or cab dispatchers overseeing the process, cab drivers were illegally cherry-picking customers and packing up their vehicles for ride-sharing without customers’ consent. These acts were violations of civil laws and punishable by fines up to $250, if someone was actually there to enforce the law.

Ron Linton, chairman of the commission, acknowledged that hailing a cab at Union Station past midnight had gotten wild after it was disclosed that the hack inspectors would not be working after midnight. Dispatchers employed by Union Station stopped working at 1:30 a.m., even though the final trains and buses arrive at the station about 3:30 a.m. on Monday mornings. After the article ran, the commission and police implemented a plan Linton said had been months in the making.

“If it weren’t for the story and that editorial, things wouldn’t have happened so quickly,” Linton said.

Union Station operators have now vowed to keep dispatchers at the station until the last buses come in. Hack inspectors, who have not been out regularly past midnight since the fall, will occasionally swoop in to make sure cabs are operating legally. Signs have also been posted listing the rights of passengers when entering a cab.

“I hope all this works,’’ Linton said. “If it doesn’t, we’ll have to ratchet up enforcement even more.”

Robert Samuels writes for the Post’s social issues team. In Maryland, he focuses on issues affecting low-income children and families. He also covers life in the District.
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