Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Bill Would Replace D.C. Taxi Zones With Meters

Washington, D.C., may be one step closer to ditching the zone system for calculating taxicab fares if Mayor Anthony Williams agrees to a provision in a federal appropriations bill.

An amendment offered by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to an appropriations bill for the District of Columbia would require taxi drivers to adopt a meter system for fares similar to those in use in many other cities, including New York.

For decades, drivers have calculated fares based on the zone system, which divides D.C. into eight regions and charges customers based on the number of zones they travel through.

Many cab customers have complained that the zone system is confusing, and that they do not know enough about the zones to anticipate their fares. Georgina Jones (SFS ’07) said that she has argued with drivers for unnecessarily traveling into more zones during a trip.

“I’ve got ripped off at least once this semester,” she said. “Now I always ask how much they are going to charge me.”

The switch to metered cabs is not definite, however. The amendment allows the D.C. Mayor to overrule the meter requirement by executive order. The current mayor, Anthony Williams, who is in his last months in office, has recommended that taxies use the meter system and has held several forums in recent months to hear complaints against the D.C. Taxicab Commission.

But some taxi drivers opposed the change, saying that the meter system has disadvantages of its own.

Inderjit Gill, a driver for Aspen Cab Company, said that he supports keeping the zone system, which he said keeps charges low for long-distance travel.

“Some people go far, some people go only two or three blocks,” he said. He noted that a ride between Capitol Hill and Georgetown only went through two zones.

Roy Spooner, general manager for Yellow Cab, the largest independent cab company in D.C., said the bill would not affect the company because the company uses a special fare calculator that can support both meter and zone systems.

“We do not have a stance. . We will support whatever the city decides,” he said.

Devices installed in about 100 Yellow Cab taxis let customers know through how many zones they have traveled and prints out receipts for customers at the end of each ride.

Spooner said that the company decided to use the calculator after Digital Dispatch Systems, a Vancouver-based company, introduced the device to the Taxicab Commission last year.

Spooner said that the fare calculator, which is equipped with a Global Positioning System that allows navigation of the city’s taxi zones, “gets the job done” and added that customers have responded positively to the machine.

“The GPS calculates from the load point to the unload point,” he said. “It is completely accurate.”

Some students were unsure that metered cabs would be an improvement over the zone system.

Molly Sterns (SFS ’08), who said that she rides taxis mostly during weekends when GUTS buses run on limited schedules, agreed that the zone system allows for cheap long-distance travel.

Over long distances and in heavy traffic, “the zone system seems cheaper,” she said.

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