Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I am writing in response to the Dr. Gridlock Live Online discussion on meter or zone fares for District taxis [www.washingtonpost.com, Oct. 24].
I ride cabs from Van Ness Street to the Watergate complex a couple of times a month. I realize it is up to me to know my fare, so I went to the city Web site www.dctaxi.dc.gov. On the home page, under "Information," there's a "Taxicab Zone Maps" link, which takes you to a map, a chart of zone charges and a fare calculator.
The zone system charges you according to the number of zones you travel through, from pickup point to drop off.
It does not charge you for time spent in traffic. I ride from the exact same zone to the exact same zone every time I take this ride, and there can be only one fare.
When I got hassled by a cabbie, I pulled out the fare calculator printouts, and there was my fare in black and white from the D.C. Taxicab Commission. Argument over.
However, this Web site and its fare calculator are not well known. It's like Metro putting the location of its system maps in tiny type on its home page. Why are these important public services not promoted and displayed prominently?
I believe the zone system was designed to keep trips around downtown relatively inexpensive. If distances traveled were among the fare determinants, riders would be at the mercy of traffic and the cabbie's chosen route.
As a taxpayer, because I'm paying the fares of federal government officials (through their expense accounts) when they catch a cab for lunch or to head over to the State Department, I want the fares as low as possible. I know how much it costs to get from my house to work. I don't want it to change depending on traffic or what route is chosen.
I want the zone system to stay. I'm not convinced that it's so broken it needs fixing.
Thanks for the information. I suspect you have made yourself among the most knowledgeable of D.C. taxi customers. For visitors or suburbanites, however, the zone system can be perplexing because the customer often doesn't know what the fare should be.
I'm glad the zone system works for you and keeps the fares down. I prefer a meter. We then know the exact fare. No argument there, either.
What do you folks think: meters or zones for D.C. taxi fares?
Publicize Cell Phone Law
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
The District needs more public service announcements and ads in newspapers informing drivers of the city's law banning hand-held cell phone use.
Police officers on foot should enforce the law on busy streets during rush hour. D.C. Police have a station at L and 22nd streets NW; they could just walk outside and look for drivers going by.
The D.C. police department doesn't assign officers to traffic duty in the downtown commercial district. The station on L Street is for the Special Operations Division that handles VIP motorcades and special events; I don't see it bothering with cell phone tickets.
Citywide, the police department keeps statistics on the number of citations and warnings it has issued for this violation. They number in the thousands since July 1, 2004, when the law went into effect. That seems like a good effort to me, but I agree that the city could benefit from better publicizing of the new law.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in The Extra and Sunday in the Metro section. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.