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Cab Riders Organize Online to Protest Fares

Cab riders, from left, James Mann, Jack Jacobson, Roger Limoges, and D.J. Karni organize a protest against a proposed $4 drop rate, the base fare that registers on meters when a rider enters a cab.
Cab riders, from left, James Mann, Jack Jacobson, Roger Limoges, and D.J. Karni organize a protest against a proposed $4 drop rate, the base fare that registers on meters when a rider enters a cab. "We are David versus Goliath," their group, D.C. Residents for Reasonable Taxi Fares, says on its Web site. (Photos By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

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By Sue Anne Pressley Montes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2007

The group D.C. Residents for Reasonable Taxi Fares was born shortly after Nov. 1, when Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) announced a drop rate of $4 for the District's new meter system.

Jack Jacobson, a lobbyist who lives in Dupont Circle and frequently uses taxis, was shocked. The drop rate -- the base fare that registers on the meter as soon as a rider enters a cab -- was higher than the rates in New York, Boston and Los Angeles. It was, he said, the highest in the nation, and surcharges for rush-hour travel, extra passengers and luggage put the potential costs even higher.

Soon, Jacobson was talking to his friends, who shared his outrage. Before long, D.C. Residents for Reasonable Taxi Fares was up and running, sending out a news release opposing the mayor's fare structure and setting up a Web site. On it, the group describes itself as a band of "citizens that have come together for a common cause."

"We are David versus Goliath," a statement on the Web site reads. "The taxicab industry in the District is organized and looking out for their best interests -- so we need to look out for the interests of those that depend on a taxi system that is honest and affordable."

The group launched an online petition Nov. 5 that asks Fenty to rescind his "ill-advised" proposal and adopt a $2.50 drop rate, the same fare used in New York. Although group members had applauded Fenty's decision to switch from zones to meters, they think he went too far in setting the new fares.

"When we saw new meter rates are going to be more expensive, we decided someone needed to take action," said Jacobson, 30, who described the organization as a "a group of friends, a growing group."

Olivia Conroy, who lives in the Kalorama area and works in consulting, quickly joined. She said she wonders how much analysis was put into the $4 figure. In a news release last week about the new fares and other regulations, Fenty's office said the regulations were created "after research and discussions about best practices with industry representatives, manufacturers, other cities and trade groups."

But Conroy, 28, said the decision making must be transparent.

"They need to show us some kind of analysis to show the $4 is correct," she said. "It seems like Mayor Fenty announced his decision and a week or so later, came up with the base fare. I wonder if they've had much time to do an analysis."

Like others in the group, she agrees that the system is in serious need of an overhaul.

"I think, in general, the entire system could be run more professionally," she said. "It seems that things are not as regulated as you would expect. Here in D.C., when you hop into a cab, you're not really sure what's going to happen. I'm not a tourist. I'm familiar with the zones, but it's still a guessing game all the time."

Although Fenty said he had planned to improve the District's taxi system anyway, he was forced to make a decision on meters because of a provision attached to D.C. legislation in Congress last year by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D.-Mich.), who said he was tired of constituents complaining about D.C. taxi service.

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