Give the taxicab medallion system a chance in D.C.
The May 21 editorial “Taxi trouble” presented a one-sided view of the Professional Taxicab Standards and Medallion Establishment Act of 2011.
While the memo by the District’s chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, delved into some aspects of taxi medallion systems, it did not present a balanced analysis of the system’s pros and cons. The medallion system works because it regulates the number of taxicabs and gives equity to taxicab owner-drivers.
Whether they issue medallions or certificates, cities such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and our neighbors (Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery, Prince George’s) have numerical limits on taxicabs. In the District, a “come one, come all” system results in a disproportionate cab-per-resident ratio of one cab for every 93 residents. In New York and Boston, the cab per resident ratios are 1-to-625 and 1-to-338, respectively. Recently, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) lifted the $19 maximum-fare cap and imposed a $1 gas surcharge to help drivers increase their earnings. Could it be that there are too many drivers chasing too few fares?
The editorial expressed concern that the medallion system is open to corruption. But the District’s “open-entry” system is, in part, why this unregulated industry fell victim to an “audacious and long-running [from 2007 to 2009] scheme” to obtain licenses to operate cab companies in the city, as The Post reported in a March news story. The Post conveniently overlooks this corruption.
Bill 19-172 strikes a balance between the needs of the taxicab industry and those of the riding public.
John Ray, Washington
The writer, a former D.C. Council member, is a lawyer who represents a number of taxicab drivers and owners in the District.