Tuesday, September 20, 2005

PETWORTH: Please Get Out of My Cab

The intersection of New Hampshire and Georgia avenues in Petworth is only a 10-minute drive from the heart of 18th Street in Adams Morgan. But to many cabbies in this city, it might as well be a foreign country. I was with friends Saturday evening in Adams Morgan and needed to go to Petworth via cab. We caught one on Kalorama Road, hoping we'd be heading to 16th Street. But the cabbie took us to 18th Street telling us he would take us no further.

I could have tried to get his cab license number, but decided not to pursue the issue. So we got out and found a cab that would take us there. People who live in the city's outer wards know how cabbies can often discriminate because of race or distance (the farther the distance from Zone 1, the less liklihood that there will be a return fare waiting.)

So we secured another cab that would take us to Petworth, but the route he took was suspiciously odd, going south before going east and then north (via Kalorama Road, 17th Street, U Street, New Hampshire and Florida avenues to Sherman Avenue to New Hampshire Avenue). We called him out on trying to steer us from Zone 2 to Zone 1 (.pdf) and back into Zone 2, as if he were Benny, the cartoon cab in Roger Rabbit (above), except trained by the world's most ruthless tricksters. So in the end, we paid a couple extra dollars. But the tip was not generous and he knew that we knew he was screwing us, and in the end, that's a partial victory in the war against hawkish cabbies.

For a full victory, I would have:
1.) Taken down the cabbie's identificiation number.
2.) Asked for a signed receipt, with the amount charged.
3.) Filed a complaint with the Taxicab Commission
4.) Brought the offending cabbie to the deck of the USS Missouri for a treaty ceremony ending the war against the good citizens of the District of Columbia.

(As you go along in the process, you discover that your will to fight the system will wane.)

And now with the Katrina-sparked $1.50 fare hike, there is even more room for D.C. cabbies to mold fares in ways they see fit. But instead of trying to screw passengers for the sake of pure extortion, cabbies may be doing it for survival, as their earnings are being quickly consumed by their gas tanks. Cabbies are feeling the pinch across the nation. Except in the District, we don't have meters, just unwritten Byzantine codes, to properly measure a fare hike.


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