Cab-flaggers and honest hackers, unite: city hall is finally coming to your collective rescue. The D.C. Council has unanimously approved for final consideration a bill that would do something about Washington's ridiculously fragmented and impotent enforcement authority over taxis. When a hacker runs over your shoes and past your waving arm to the hotel doorman 100 feet behind, there may be new opportunity for revenge; and when a driver doesn't know the difference between the Capitol and the Capital Centre or between a one-zone fare and the national debt, there may be new authority on your side. What's more, many drivers from the city's majority of honest, hard-working cabbies seem to be supporting the measure.
The legislation would create a commission with sole authority for regulating the cab industry -- which currently comes under the Public Service Commission and nine other government agencies and offices. There are more bureaucracies sharing oversight of cabs, in fact, than there are inspectors for the whole city. The bill calls for a 13-member body that would establish rates, hear all complaints and field at least a dozen inspectors (which is about 91/2 more than have been out there over the last few years).
In response to some cab drivers who opposed granting the new commission power to authorize the use of meters or to limit the number of cabs that may operate in the city, the measure would require approval by the D.C. Council for either change. That's fair enough; both are important issues that would be best left to the elected council members.
Since the last fare increase -- and since the council began looking seriously at ways to crack down on cab drivers who disobey the rules -- we have sensed some improvement in hacker behavior. Enactment of this bill, sponsored by council member Betty Ann Kane, would be a significant way to underscore the city's -- and the public's -- demand for good service.