The taxicab rush-hour surcharge is now 65 cents, not 50, as stated in yesterday's Style Plus.
There's more than one way to be taken for a cab ride -- and many riders don't know about the others.
If any of these situations sound familiar, you've been taken for a "ride," and the cab driver has violated rules and regulations governing taxi service in the District of Columbia.
1. You get into any empty cab at the corner of 17th and Pennsylvania, and tell the driver you're going to the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. Halfway down the block the driver pulls over to pick up another passenger who is going in the same general direction but whose destination is the General Accounting Office at 4th and G St. NW. The deviation from the direct route makes you late for your appointment.
2. An empty cab with no "Off Duty" or "On Call" sign displayed pulls over in response to your signal. The driver rolls down the window and asks where you're going. You give him your destination, he shakes his head, announcing he's going the other direction, and off he goes.
3. You get into an empty cab and give your destination. The driver repeats it and you confirm. Again. And again. By now you're wondering whether you're riding with a real cab driver. You look for the identification card bearing his photograph, name and number in large print. It's not on the dashboard nor on the sun visors. A query about its whereabouts and you're told "I have one." "Why is it not displayed?" "I forgot to put it up." But no attempt is made to produce the card.
4. You get into a cab on your way to a 9 a.m. meeting and open a report to review during your ride. The driver is puffing on a smelly cigar, has the radio tuned to a disco music station which is in direct competition with a crackling two-way radio. So much for reading the report.
5. At the end of a trip, you are told the fare is 50 cents higher than you paid for the same trip the previous week. Knowing that the rates haven't gone up, you question the driver and are told it's a rush-hour charge. Without a copy of the rules, you're in no position to argue.
6. You ask for a receipt to turn in with your expense account; the driver replies that he doesn't have any paper, so no receipt.
There are six violations of D.C. taxi rules in these examples. Each violation could result in suspension or revocation of a hacker's identification license.
Outgoing D.C. Transportation Director Douglas Schneider, in announcing a stepped-up effort to enforce cab rules, encouraged citizens to report violations to the Public Vehicle Division.
"We are concerned by the reports we are receiving from several sources that citizens are not receiving fair and equitable services from some taxicab operators in the city," said Schneider. "The District has supported fare increases and other measures to protect the rights of taxicab drivers and to make certain that they receive fair compensation for their work. We want to make certain, however, that citizens are not being denied their right of access to this form of public transportation by some taxicab drivers."
Here are the violations, according to the District of Columbia Register, Special Edition, D.C. Rules and Regulations, Title 14, Public Service Commission, ammended through February 1980:
1. The driver took the first passenger who entered the cab more than five city blocks from the direct or most traveled route to the first destination. This is not permitted in "shared riding," defined as the "transportation of two or more passengers whose trips have either a different point of origin or a different destination." The rules also state ". . . a deviation of more than five city blocks from the direct or most traveled route to the first destination is not permitted. . . ."
2. The driver cannot refuse a passenger when not displaying an "On Call," "Off Duty," or "Out of Service" sign if his vehicle is empty. Exceptions are if the cab is from Maryland or Virginia and is not licensed to operate in the District.
3. Any driver who cannot or will not produce the identification card is in violation of the rules. A Zone Rate Chart must be displayed on the back of the front seat and must have the tag number, the association or owner's name and the taxicab number. Failing to have the chart also is a violation.
4. For smokers who prefer not to be subjected to cigar, cigarette or pipe smoke, it is within their rights to request a driver to refrain from smoking. The same applies for playing any radio other than one used for communications. tA driver must "secure the concurrence of his passenger or passengers beforehand." (Drivers are now able to prohibit passengers from smoking. Such cabs will have a no-smoking decal displayed on the outside of the cab.)
5. A 50-cent surcharge may be levied only between 4 and 6:30 p.m. on business days. There is no extra charge during morning rush hours.
6. Drivers are required to provide a receipt when requested. It must show his name, identification card number, tag number, the time, date, place of origin and destination, and the amount of the fare. Copies of receipts issued must be kept by the drivers for three months.
According to a spokesperson in the back office, the most common complaints received are overcharging and refusing to transport, that is, refusing to stop for passengers or being unwilling to take them to certain destinations. tHandicapped persons, the elderly and people going to far Southeast are most often affected.
The offices receives 20 to 30 complaints a month. Violations usually result in suspension of licenses for 10 to 15 days or longer, depending on the severity of the violation. No licenses have been revoked in over a year.
Complaints received without a signature or return address are "put in the trash." If complaints have incomplete information, the office will attempt to contact the individual making the complaint to fill in the gaps.
This is not to say, of course, that all cab drivers are out to break the rules. There's more than one cruising the city concerned about passengers being taken for a ride. As a Yellow Cab driver put it, "If people reported drivers who don't have their ID cards up or who take people more than five blocks out of their way, it would make things better for other drivers and the passengers, too."