About 200 Washington taxicab drivers rallied yesterday to protest a newly granted cab fare increase of nearly 10 percent as inadequate, but failed to reach agreement on how to pursue an even larger increase.
The fare increase went into effect this morning, pushing the cost of a one-zone ride from $1.10 to $1.20 and a four-zone ride from downtown to the Maryland line from $2.75 to $3.
The protest meeting, held at the Laborers Union hall, 525 New Jersey Ave. NW, dissolved inconclusively into a shouting match between some drivers favoring more deliberation on a future course and others favoring an immediate strike.
"You've got to understand about (cab) drivers -- they're an independent bunch," Lee S. Manor, executive secretary of the Alliance of Taxicab Businessmen, sponsor of the meeting, told a reporter. "One thing is clear, that we are not satisfied with the 9-point-something (percent)" granted last Wednesday by the D.C. Public Service Commission.
The alliance is the organization that petitioned the PSC for the fare increase on an interim basis, which the PSC said it wanted to keep within President Carter's 9.5 percent guideline for cost increases. The PSC said it will hold hearings on a future larger increase.
Barbara Rogers a taxi driver for 10 years who currently drives for Yellow Cab, said "20 or 25 percent would be about right at this time." She said she works up to 14 hours a day for takehome earnings of $35. Like many drivers, she blamed the expansion of the Metro subway for skimming off riders.
"People from around the country get in my cab every day and ask me, 'How in the hell do you make a living at these fares?'" Joseph M. McCall, a part-time driver for Liberty Cab and a graduate student in Shakespearean literature at Howard University, said, urging a strike.
"The cab (zone) system in this city is set up around Capitol Hill -- it is set up around the elite," McCall said.
One recently appointed D.8. City Council member, John L. Ray (D-At-Large), who is seeking election May 1 to the two remaining years of Mayor Marion Barry's council term, spoke and promised his support to the cabdrivers. He received an ovation.
Two other council candidates, former council member Douglas E. Moore, seeking the same seat. and Charlene Drew Jarvis, seeking the vacant Ward 4 seat, also appeared, but were not permitted to speak.