Dear Dr. Gridlock:
While the taxicab zone system may work for well-informed, well-prepared regular riders like Sharon Buck [Dr. Gridlock, Nov. 10], it does not work for occasional riders like me. Nor does it work for the friends and family members who have visited us. I imagine it doesn't work well for tourists, either.
Because I don't always know when I'm going to want to take a cab, I can't be prepared with a printout. I've lived here 15 years, and I still find the zone maps in the cabs difficult to interpret.
Even on routes I regularly take, I have been charged a variety of prices. The fare from my house to Reagan National Airport ranges from $14 to $25. Even with the handout that riders receive while waiting in the cab line at the airport, I've never won an argument about that fare.
I hate having to prepare myself for an argument every time I get into a cab.
When out-of-town visitors take cabs to our house, I regularly find that they have been overcharged, even if we've told them beforehand what the fare should be.
When you get ripped off by a cabdriver the moment you step off the plane, it doesn't make you feel good about the city. Tourism is an important business in this city; we need a meter system that is fair and understandable to visitors and residents.
I've also had cabdrivers refuse to drive me somewhere because it's a long drive for a lower fare. They're not supposed to do that, but they do. I've sent complaints, with the driver's name and license number, to the D.C. Taxicab Commission, but have never received a response.
While I believe that most cabdrivers are honest and not trying to take advantage, the zone system is too confusing and prone to abuse. It needs to go.
Your assertion is right: "I hate having to prepare myself for an argument every time I get into a cab."
You shouldn't have to live that way -- and get overcharged to boot.
I appeared at a Ward Circle AARP meeting in upper Northwest last week and found few defenders of the zone system. Several in the audience theorized that metered cabs would charge them less than zoned-fare cabs because the trips cross so many zone lines.
I ask this question: Do any of you know of anywhere else in the world that has a zoned-fare taxicab system like the one used in the District?
District Road Work
The District Department of Transportation has announced that it will close a stretch of Good Hope Road SE during daytime hours and reroute traffic on part of Reno Road NW.
* Good Hope Road will be closed from Martin Luther King Avenue to Naylor Road from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays until sometime early this month.
* Southbound Reno Road traffic will be detoured between Nebraska Avenue and Military Road until spring 2007. That stretch of Reno Road will be one-way northbound only; southbound traffic will be detoured to Connecticut Avenue, either via Military Road or down 41st Street to Huntington Street.
A Meter Matter
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Your warning about parking at broken meters in the District was right on [Dr. Gridlock, Nov. 17]. I had the same situation as letter writer Paige Conner -- a broken meter -- and reported it, but I got a ticket. I mailed it in with the explanation of the broken meter, submitted the report number and fully expected the fine to be dismissed.
Much to my amazement, I received a long letter back detailing how the Department of Public Works had checked the meter before, during and after the time of my infraction and determined the meter to be fully operational. This after I lost several quarters in the meter.
To read the letter, it sounded as if they dismantled the meter, checked the software and found it to be just fine. I think it's a racket.
It could be incompetence, or an oversight. I wouldn't park at a broken meter. Once you get into the ticket adjudication system, it can be hard to get out.
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 e-mails, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.