DC Cab Drivers Still Up to No Good

Let me start off by saying, "Preach on, brother. Preach on." A pro-DC blogger, David Alpert, was getting the moron treatment from a cabbie and Alpert handled it by the book. When a cab driver refused to drive him to an undesirable location, Alpert called the Passenger Rights hotline and asked for the driver's license number. When the driver refused to let him see his information, Alpert ended up on with a supervisor. And by supervisor, I mean Leon Swain. The guy in charge of the whole shebang.

Alpert got his ride and it was made clear that the driver was going to be in the doghouse.

So, congratulations to David Alpert for doing everything by the book. But I can't shake the feeling that he still doesn't quite understand the problem. First the cabbie fucked up by refusing to drive Alpert where he wanted to go in the city after he got into the cab. Then he doubly fucked up by refusing to let Alpert see his information. Then he triply fucked up by telling Swain that he didn't want to drive Alpert unless he got the fare in advance. Drivers can do that, but that wasn't the issue at hand. So three fuck-ups. Major ones. And Alpert admits he's heard of these horror stories through the Internets.

Yet his sentiment is that he hopes that the driver didn't get into too much trouble. What? The driver was a liar and a crook. He certainly had no interest in obeying DC's taxi laws. Why would one hope that he didn't get in trouble?

"Will this driver face actual penalties? I don't really care. I didn't want to ruin his day..."

What!? Well, I care on your behalf. I want this guy off the street. He works in bad faith. Not everyone is willing to put themselves on the line for bullshit like this. For everyone who is willing to sit in the backseat and complain about a driver who is sitting three feet away or who is willing to loudly boycott a Subway over trying to extort an extra 11 cents, there are a hundred people who would just leave the cab or pay the extra money or whatever. The timid need protection too.

If people don't get outraged by this, especially when they know that many DC cabbie's share these habits, then what's the point?


  1. I feel like 'outraged' might be a bit much. But still... Refusing to take people places is a giant pain in the ass (and, of course, illegal). I've had cabbies refuse to take me to the car impound in SE (when my bf's car was towed), which sucked but I got, and also to refuse to take me to my old house in Foxhall on a Saturday night (which is extra stupid, because I lived 5 minutes from M Street where the guy could have picked up plenty of fares).

    Both times I should have called and complained, but I was more focused on getting where I was going. I've had some really great cabbies in DC, but plenty also seem to feel really freakin' entitled.

  2. DC cabbies need tough love. When in a taxi, I ask the driver if he participated in the strike last Halloween. If he did--no tip.

  3. Like Lauren, I've had a similar experience trying to take a cab to the DC impound lot. I was new to DC so I didnt realize I needed to invoke a "passenger rights" law to get a fucking 6 mile cab ride. So I slashed his tires.

  4. Actually, the driver *is* permitted to require the fare in advance. It's one of the things listed on that Passengers' Rights sign (in the Drivers' Rights section). The driver did, however, lie when he told Swain that wanting the fare in advance was the reason for refusing to take me, since I had no problem obeying that rule and paying in advance.

  5. "Then he triply fucked up by telling Swain that he didn't want to drive Alpert unless he got the fare in advance. Drivers can do that, but that wasn't the issue at hand."

  6. There is no reason for leniency. If a cabbie screws you, one must assume that they screw everyone. And given how often most of us are jerked around by the cabs, this practice is industry standard.

    What's so offensive is that these guys are making a mint. The cheapest cab fare in DC right now is $7.50 (because, obviously, we need a "gas surcharge" on the already ridiculous base fare). Add a tip to that and you're basically talking 9 bucks.

    NINE DOLLARS. The bottom line is, there is no way I will ever take a cab unless I simply have no other option due to time or other constraints.

    So the cabs feel that they aren't already being well compensated, and need to screw us further? I will relish the day when the meters are finally installed. And maybe the cabs might even be surprised to find that people use their service more often when it's not a total rip off.

  7. Oops, you're right. I guess I was reading too fast.

  8. Thanks, duh.

    Mr. Alpert, thanks again for playing everything by the book and showing people how it's done. Hopefully people will take note and follow suit if/when this happens to them.

  9. "If people don't get outraged by this..."

    Geez, enough with the outrage.

    Outrage over the voluntary door-to-door firearms search.

    Outrage over the baseball stadium (which will let us bring in our own food -- score!).

    Outrage over some random Washington Post column.

    It's just exhausting at this point, and every post you make urging other people to "do something about this" has less and less of an impact, IMHO.

    "Then what's the point?"


  10. That's weird. When I needed a ride to an impound lot in Southwest, not only did the cabbie take me there, but he waited nearby till the owner let me in.

  11. Anyone who lives in DC knows how crooked the cab drivers are ... I travel some for work and never do I get charged the same fare when I fly out of DCA! Each freakin' time I get charged something different when usually its the same time of day and I carry the same piece of luggage! Thankfully I don't pay for it so I rarely make an issue out of it.

    I'm glad that someone had the balls to call the number. Next time this happens to me I will be doing the same. When I lived on the hill, I was NEVER able to get a cab from dupont/adams morgan to the hill on a sat night and had I known they were required to take me after getting in I would have invoked that.

    Thanks for the blog posting to the both of you (I had already read it on dcist).

  12. Wow, I've been so lucky with my cabbies. They've always been more than nice, been willing to take me where I need to go, and several even asked me if I wanted them to wait for my companion to show up. I took a cab back from the ER at three in the morning and the cabbie asked me if I needed help into my apartment building!

    Point: Not all the cabbies are shitty.

    By the way, refusing to tip someone for a service rendered is low. Their political beliefs, union standings, whatever, have nothing to do with the fact that he drove you where you wanted to go in a timely manner. Do you ask the waiter how he voted in the last election before you tip him for getting your order out quickly and refilling your water glass? No way! Because what he supports has nothing to do with whether or not he performed his job competently for you in the moment.

  13. When waiters hold up traffic and make me 30 minutes late to work over a stupid policy designed to rip off consumers, then we'll talk.

  14. Rusty, thanks for yet another PSA. You can bet the next time this happens, I'll be dialin' that number.

    Last week, I got into a cab and had to engage in an 8-block SCREAMING match with the driver over the fare. I asked him 2 times to just let me out and I would take another cab, but he refused THAT!!! (Unlawful imprisonment? Kidnapping?)

    I'm sick of so many cabbies having this attitude that they're doing you some kind of faaaavor by taking you where you need to go. Bottom line, I'm not putting up with their shit anymore.

    We, as customers, need to send a message to these guys. If it means that some gigantic cab company needs to come in and put all the asshole independent drivers out of business then FINE. I bet they'd be cheaper and have a higher level of customer service and that's what open competition and free markets are all about.

  15. Have to cosign with Rusty.

    Having a cabbie refuse to take you home three-thirty in the morning just because he can is not my idea of fun. I was going to a good part of town, but he thought it was far.

    Some things are about common sense.

  16. I had a cabby loudly complain all the way from Mount Pleasant to Friendship Heights that he wasn't going to get any fares once he was there.

    Sorry dude -- no one, including me, wants to go to Friendship Heights. Just take me there and spare me the guilt trip.

  17. I'll do anything to avoid taking a cab ride. I mean, I've taken the subway to avoid it even when work is paying the bill.

    And I hate how those smartasses have to control everything and lock you in. Sometimes, they'll unscrew the knobs on the locks so they control whether you can get out... you're locked in.

    They also don't warn you if they're suddenly going to close your window and I got my fingers jammed once.

    I hate them.

  18. Not all of my cab experiences have been bad. But I've had my fair share of cabby crookedness.

    Cases in point:

    One Friday night, a friend and I wanted to go from the Georgetown Leows to an apartment off of MacArthur Blvd, just a little over a mile away. The cabby didn't want to go unless he charged us above the standard rate - $16 plus tip. We refused and took a different cab.

    My parents were in town and staying at a B&B in Adams Morgan. They were going to stay at my place for the last night, so I met up with them at the B&B to help out with their luggage. We hailed a cab off Calvert, destination Tenleytown. The cabby, noticing their luggage, starts talking about "the really complicated zoning system" employed by DC, how much this was going to cost (a lot), etc. I politely nodded through his educational seminar, and then let him know I've been living in DC for four years and was quite familiar with the cab system. He was clearly disappointed that he wasn't going to be able to rip off a group of ignorant tourists.

    So, yes - BRING ON THE METERS. I can't wait.

  19. @ Edris Rodriguez:

    "never do I get charged the same fare when I fly out of DCA!"

    That's because when you hail a cab in DC to go to (non-zone) Virginia the rate is calculated by mileage.

    And, that's not to say that this system is any less arbitrary than the zones.

  20. AnonymousMay 16, 2009

    I happened upon this while searching for "why do people hate cab drivers". I am a taxi driver...not in DC but in pittsburgh. We have meters, not zones...but, basically the same sentiment endures.

    What the customers do not understand is that if taxi drivers followed all of the rules, they would most likely make somewhere between 9-13$ per hour. That is insufficent for the job.

    Taxi driving is dangerous and disgusting. The thing drivers deal with are not worth it unless they are making a moderatly decent living.

    If the screws are put to cabbies...the system will collapse...no one will do the job.

    And let me ask you...why shouldnt you have to pay extra to have someone do something unpleasent for you? Why, because it is a rule? How about decency...the decency to know that someone is driving around in the middle of the night trying to scrape out a living and you want them to perform an action for you wherein they will lose money?

    You pay more for car insurance depending on your area or residence. Pizza will not be delivered to some locations. Whhy do you think you have the right to force a driver to lose money or endanger himself...all for your 10% gratuity.

    I am glad I work in pittsburgh where I get to carry a legal concealed firearm as a taxi driver and have the right of refusal for nearly any reason.