The proposal, submitted by an independent taxi driver, would lower the base fare from $3 to $2.75, but raise the per-mile rate from $1.50 to $2.75. But before you freak out about taxi fares nearly doubling — and plenty already have — consider a few facts:
• There is significant opposition. Several groups testified earlier today that a rate hike would be rash at this point, including trade groups representing hotel and restaurant owners, the Downtown Business Improvement District and the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. A rider group, D.C. Residents for Reasonable Taxi Fares, also raised objections. Multiple witnesses asked for a more scientific study of taxi rates than the largely anecdotal petition before proceeding with a hike, and virtually all said they hoped any hike would be accompanied by service improvements — for instance, mandatory credit card readers.
• D.C. taxi fares are relatively low. A recent Washington Post survey found that the city’s base taxi rates were among the lowest of major U.S. cities. That said, there is no shortage of cabs or drivers — or people wanting to become drivers — suggesting the current fares offer a reasonable living. Also, the proposed hike does not, in fact, represent a near-doubling of fares, as it would eliminate the current fuel and additional-passenger surcharges. Shorter trips would see only modest increases.
• This is not a done deal. The Taxicab Commission has set a Dec. 13 meeting of its rates and rules panel to possibly move forward with the proposal. Chairman Ron Linton has repeatedly indicated to me and others that he is sympathetic to drivers’ pleas of poverty and that he anticipates some kind of rate hike. But he’s also spoken consistently of tying service improvements — credit cards, hybrid cabs, et al. — to any action on fares. (Such is the case right now in Arlington.)