This article about taxi drivers' support for Vincent C. Gray over Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the D.C. Democratic mayoral primary incorrectly attributed a quotation. It was Nathan Price, chairman of the D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers Association, not human rights activist Ken Williams, who called Gray "the lesser of two evils." The article also incorrectly said that members of the D.C. Taxicab Commission are on Gray's transportation team. Gray's team includes former, not current, members of the commission.
D.C. DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY
Angry over switch to meters, cabbies who had voted for Fenty work to elect Gray
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
If there was one vote that D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray had locked up before Tuesday's mayoral primary, it was the cabdriver bloc.
The city's roughly 6,000 taxi cabdrivers, a group made up largely of African-born immigrants, have long been upset with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) over his 2007 change from the city's zone fare system to meters. On Tuesday, they waged what one union leader called "the fight for our very lives."
"We supported Fenty, but he turned on us," said Aklile Redie, 52, of Silver Spring, a cabdriver for 15 years. "We know how important this is to our way of life and our families."
Many of these drivers had voted for Fenty in 2006. That year, a few dozen cabbies drove Fenty voters to the polls for $150 a day, said Nathan Price, chairman of the D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers Association.
This year, hundreds of cabdrivers offered their services to Gray for free.
Taxi drivers, even those who don't live in the District, have passed out anti-Fenty and pro-Gray fliers for months. Gray's database of cabbies willing to drive voters to the polls numbered at least 500, according to campaign officials and cab companies.
Fenty deployed an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign that included the use of private vans to get voters to polling places. The Gray camp and its supporters countered with vans of their own, and in the end, vans seemed to ferry more voters than the cabs.
Yet some people riding cabs to various destinations were surprised with an offer midway through the ride: If they wanted to go to a polling station en route, that portion of the trip would be without charge.
"A free ride is a free ride," Juanita Fairchild of Northeast Washington said as she stepped into a cab she had hailed. She was planning on voting later at Merritt Middle School in her neighborhood, but if the driver wound up offering to take her there for free, that would put her close to home.
"We were, unfortunately, willing to drive Fenty folks to the polls, too. But we didn't pick up many," Price, 67, said with a wink and a nod.
Fenty angered cabbies with the switch from the 1930s-era zone system to meters, which he said would make the city more business- and tourist-friendly.
The time- and distance-based meter system is similar to that used in most other major cities. But, according to the Web site TaxiFareFinder.com, the District has the fourth-cheapest fares among 28 cities for a five-mile ride.