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D.C. Taxi Drivers Strike

People waiting for rides outside Union Station yesterday faced long waits and higher fares -- double the price of a taxi ride or more -- as limo drivers took the striking cabdrivers' place.
People waiting for rides outside Union Station yesterday faced long waits and higher fares -- double the price of a taxi ride or more -- as limo drivers took the striking cabdrivers' place. (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)   |   Buy Photo

The next person in line, Monique Jones, refused to pay when the driver requested $20 to go to the Willard Hotel. "They think because there's a strike in D.C. they can do anything they want," said Jones, who was visiting from Philadelphia. "We've been here half an hour. But I'm just not going to pay $20 to go to the Willard."

Rodney Wormley Jr., a cab dispatcher, urged the drivers along to keep the line moving.

"You can't be picky, and you can't be charging outrageous fares," he said.

Nestor Mouapi, a limo driver for three years, said he disliked hustling for passengers because he doesn't know the zone fare system and because passengers grow testy with him.

"My limo," he said, pointing at his Mercedes, "costs a lot more than a taxi cab."

Several out-of-town visitors said they did not understand why the drivers are unhappy with a fare system that is standard in other cities.

Leon Swain, chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission, said he has met with hundreds of drivers in recent weeks, "and they understand it's time for a change." He added that he is willing to meet with the coalition.

"The bottom line is this: The citizens of the District of Columbia have asked the mayor and the D.C. Taxicab Commission to provide them with a transparent fare system, a system that is universally understood and universally accepted," Swain said yesterday.

Striking drivers, however, are convinced that the switch will wreck their livelihoods. They say they were dealt an additional blow when Fenty recently decreased the proposed drop rate, the amount that registers on the meter when a passenger enters a cab, from $4 to $3. Under zones, the minimum fare was $6.50.

They also are looking to the D.C. Council for help. On Jan. 18, council members Phil Mendelson and Marion Barry introduced legislation to establish a zone-meter system that would preserve the zones but use the Global Positioning System to calculate the fares. The bill is in committee.

But one driver, who was not striking, said he did not see the point.

"I don't particularly want the meters, but I believe meters are inevitable," said Adrian D. Brock, a driver for more than 20 years. "And if they are, there's not very much we can do. Fenty's mind is set."

Staff writer Daniel LeDuc contributed to this report.


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