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

D.C. Cabs En Route to Fairer Fares

Mayor Adrian Fenty has proposed a law which will require all cab drivers to install meters in their cabs. As one of many Georgetown students that feels that they have been swindled by D.C. cab drivers in the past due to the lack of transparency in the rate system, I laud the mayor’s initiative. It’s about time that the archaic system of taxis in the capital is overhauled and brought into the 21st century.

The current system is supposed to provide regularity in fares, but as many students and professionals know, it fails is in this respect, and is oftentimes abused by the drivers, exploiting the unfamiliarity of the patrons with the zone system. While it is assumed that cab driver will follow the zone system, many expensive cab rides I have taken to nearby destinations have proven otherwise. I have even been mocked by cab drivers on several occasions, who pointed out to me that if I had only walked a block further then I would not have been charged for entering an additional zone. In fact, Georgetown University is on the border of two zones meaning that that it makes a significant difference whether you grab a cab at 36th and O Streets or at university’s front gates.

The zone system is confusing and easy to abuse. Moreover, there is little reason for its existence. Though the system has been around for about 70 years, it has proven to cause considerate inconveniences for the consumer. The map, which is awkwardly designed and confusing for those who haven’t dealt with the system before, is ill-conceived at the core. The orientation of the map places north at a 45 degree angle, for example, a bold decision on the part of the designer, deciding to separate from geographical conventions of the rest of the map-making world of the past 400 years or so. The map, sporting sorrowful pastel colors which serve no purpose and decrease legibility, poorly oriented in space, and usually covered by a layer of grime, is a terrible reference document for those who would be using the cab, namely drunk or otherwise impaired riders, tourists, some of whom do not know English and people in a hurry. Besides the appearance of this document being offensive to the senses, it is primarily supposed to help those not familiar with the city, and seems to be specifically tailored to make abuse as easy as possible.

The meter system, on the other hand, besides eliminating the need for the map, will be standard and fair. It will also resemble the system of most other cities in the country and abroad, making the capital of the United States more welcoming and hospitable. Of course, there have been initiatives to move the taxis to a meter system before, and with this new resurgence of the issue, I am not getting excited about it until it happens. Before it does, though, there are things that D.C. residents and students can do to encourage fair practices in the business. Visiting www.dc.taxiwiz.com, a website which calculates the expected price for a cab fair, will give you bargaining power when taking a ride. Learning the approximate delineation of zones can be useful as well.

Of course, I would not want to send the wrong message about the cab drivers of D.C., as most of the ones I have met have been not only fair and honest practitioners of this timeless profession, but were very interesting people, comprising a diverse and dynamic community that Hoyas should learn more about. After all, we are at a school concerned with international issues, and one of the fastest ways to access a slew of narratives about those issues is to interact with the mostly-immigrant population of the cab driver community. That said, I would like to see more of my compatriots push for fairer business practices in their daily lives, and though I don’t expect much of the meter initiative, I’m still keeping my fingers crossed.

iranda White is a sophomore in the College. She is an assistant opinion editor of The Hoya.

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