Dear PoPville – Are There Any Reliable Phone Numbers/Apps/Websites for Getting a Cab?

Photo by PoPville flickr user available_photons

Dear PoPville,

I don’t drive, because I can’t drive, because I do not see well enough to drive. This has been true throughout my life and I’ve always accepted this as a fact of life. However not a day goes by when I spend more energy arranging transportation than I’m guessing most people do. And still my transportation is far less predictable, less convenient and yes less equal than most. Despite the generosity of others and the generosity of government subsidies I still find my choices in life constrained by my ability to get around. My choice of where to live, work, shop and socialize are determined more by my ability to get places than by any other factor.

From time to time I consider alternatives to my existing transportation options. Eleven years ago for example, I began using metroAccess, taxpayer subsidized transportation for people with disabilities. MetroAccess has served me well. But it’s not as convenient as I’d like, and it’s costly to the taxpayer. I’m thinking of an alternative but I don’t know how to go about making it happen.

I’d opt to use taxis more often, but calling a cab in DC is a real crap shoot. The day has to be sunny; the time of day has to be right and the neighborhood convenient to the taxi driver. Most cabs in DC are independently owned. So calling any one company, even Yellow Cab, reaches a tiny percentage of drivers. For example I live in Glover Park and work in Petworth. I’ve learned that taxi service by phone is nonexistent at both locations between 9:00 and Noon and between 2:00 and 4:00 PM on weekdays, weekend nights and anytime it rains. And we’re not talking NE or SE. These are affluent or central locations and still taxi service is unsatisfactory. People in the eastern half of the city must really have it bad.

I’ve actually had to resort to calling a Maryland or Virginia taxicab company to take me from DC, to their jurisdiction, and then turn around and drop me at my final destination in the city. Needless to say this is expensive and time consuming. I’m willing and able to pay for taxis out of pocket. I choose metroaccess instead because they are far more reliable than DC taxicabs.

Ideally I’d like one or two phone numbers I can call, a website I can goto or a smartphone app I can use to order taxi service. The two companies that come closest to providing this service are Diamond and Yellow. Yet these fall far short of my expectations. These include advanced booking, a taxi within 15 minutes of the scheduled pickup time and real time estimated time or arrival, cab location and identification. Better still all cabs should be required to participate.

I believe that a solution to this problem could be reasonably expected to provide adequate taxicab service to DC residents, increase business for cab drivers and cab companies and save taxpayers on services such as metroAccess. For me improved taxicab service would mean better choice and an improved quality of life.

It’d be nice, for all residents of the city, if the DC Taxi Commission would address this,. From what I’ve recently read the Commission may exclusively serve the hospitality industry.

I’m wondering if this problem could be fixed?

57 Comment

  • Yet another reason I love Uber.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Is Uber realistic for daily use? How much more expensive is it than a cab?

      • I use Uber constantly. Average is around $15 for a fare in most closer in areas of the city. By the time you pay a cab fare with a buddy (add fee) and a tip, honestly it is around the same price. Only you get incredible service, quick pickup and a clean car. Could not recommend it more.

        • Considering $15 is the absolute minimum fare you are allowed to have with Uber, I can’t imagine the average is anywhere close to $15.

          I don’t know how anybody could say that Uber is anywhere close to comparable to a cab. The base rate is more than double the base rate for a cab, and the per mile is also more than double. Unless you usually tip cabs 50% you are always going to pay significantly more with Uber.

          Honestly the only reason I can think of to use Uber is if you are so unbelievably shallow that you think showing up in a black car as opposed to a yellow one makes any difference at all.

          • You must be a cab driver. How you can say that “showing up in a black care as opposed to a yellow one” is the difference between Uber and DC Taxi? Sorry if my post offended you in some irrational way, but I have only once had a fare over $15. Yes – I take the cabs short distances (usually around a mile that I’m not comfortable walking late at night). They also give out credits for referring new riders and basically any time you’re unable to find an Uber driver nearby. My average might even be less than $15 to this point.

          • Please then, enlighten me about these myriad differences.

            I’m guessing you will say that you can book a cab online or through the phone. Every taxi company will take reservations through the phone. Yellow cab also takes reservations online, and the taximagic app lets you order cabs with a smartphone.

            How about credit cards? Well besides the fact that DC is almost certainly going to mandate card readers soon, many cabs in DC take credit cards already. Even if you pay $3 to get cash from an ATM you still come out ahead.

            Oh, and Uber is so much cleaner/has newer cars! When was the last time you got sick from being in a taxi? When was the last time your ride ended abruptly because the cab broke down. If your answer is anything other than “never” you are either a very unlucky statistical improbability or a liar.

            Your previous post didn’t offend me, what offends me isthe fact that so many people in this city have so much more money than sense that they are willing to do things like pay $15 to get driven a mile. $15! That’s like throwing a dollar bill on the ground for every minute you are walking! By the way, do you own a bridge? I have a great one I can sell you cheap!

          • Other than the disabled, who takes a cab just to go one mile?

          • When I lived in Adams Morgan, I took cabs home from the Dupont Circle area (about 1.3 miles) when it was late at night, I was by myself (I’m female), and I’d been waiting for the damn 42 bus only for it to fail to show up.

            Another situation in which someone might take a cab for a relatively short distance: carrying heavy stuff (like luggage).

          • In my experience, when you call cabs in DC they don’t pick up the phone or don’t show up when they say they will. I’ve also tried to order yellow cabs online on more than one occasion, but stopped after they didn’t show up three times and I realized I was being an idiot by thinking that I would get a different result.

            If I lived in VA, I wouldn’t see a need for Uber. I used to live in VA, and would frequently call Blue Top and Red Top, who always would arrive within fifteen minutes of the call, or would always arrive on time if I had scheduled the pick-up.

            So a part of the added cost of Uber is for having a cab that will actually come and pick you up when you need to be somewhere by a certain time – airport, train station, interview, etc. You just can’t count on DC cabs to do that. It’s different, of course, if you live in a very busy area of DC where there always will be cabs around, but many of us, including the original poster, do not.

          • Maybe another reason is that no cabs go by your house or ever come when you call them and there’s been a slew of armed robberies on your street and you don’t want to walk a mile alone in the dark to try and find a cab.

      • I find Uber to be about $2-7 more. Uber’s final price includes tip and you don’t need to have cash on you. If you call a cab and have them pick you up, it’s an extra $2 dispatch fee (I think) plus a $2 tip on top of your final fare. I cannot afford to take Uber everyday (or a cab for that matter) but if my situation was similar to the OP’s I would consider paying a little extra for timely service, professionalism and less hassle.

      • Uber is amazing. It has essentially solved all of my issues with DC cabs: reliable dispatches, credit card payment, and excellent customer service. To answer your questions, I don’t think its appropriate for daily use for most people. The cost can add up pretty quickly. I only take cabs 2-3 times a month. So for me, its justified. My fare from 11th and Monroe NW to Dupont Circle was $16 (tip included in fare) and from 11th and Monroe to Union was $26. A little steep. But one of these cars was a Mercedes S500. I mean, c’mon, how baller is that. Give Uber a try!

  • Try Uber! I love it. I live in East Shaw (no, not a euphamism, I actually do live on the most eastern part of what is actually Shaw) and I haven’t had a problem getting Uber to come to my house.

  • Uber! Uber! Uber!
    Uber is slightly more expensive but you can rely on them, the drivers are pleasant (not screaming into their bluetooth for the duration of the ride) and knowledgable.
    DC Cabs are a fracking joke.

  • I never call cabs because they never actually come. I just go outside and waive one down, which in Columbia Heights never takes more than a couple minutes. Don’t know about Glover Park.

  • Blithe

    A couple of thoughts — When I’ve had good experiences with cab drivers, I’ve often asked if I could call them directly — many cab drivers have given me their cell phone numbers and indicated that if I had a regular appointment or route, they would be happy to accommodate my needs . I haven’t actually done this in DC though — but in other cities, including Baltimore, this has worked Very well for me.

    I also have more affluent friends who contract with private car services for their transportation needs. Again, I haven’t done this myself, but people who have seem to be happy with it.

    • me

      I used to do this too. I had “my” cab driver, Hassan, give me his number and he was the best. Anecdote: once I called him for a ride, but he wasn’t working that night, so he came and picked me up in his personal SUV and didn’t even charge me. Yes, he’d talk my ear off, but it was fantastic. Unfortunately, he has since been deported, otherwise, I’d share the number. 🙁

      • dude, why can’t I forge relationships like this with people. that is awesome. I’m so sorry he was deported. 🙁

    • Best idea. I have friends who swear by this. I too live in Glover Park and can usually snag a cab quickly.
      I say collect a few numbers of cabbies you like and then use them frequently. If you are loyal – they will likely be loyal as well.

  • To chime in I’ve heard great things about Uber car service –

  • Absolutely UBER! It costs more than a cab, but it’s reliable, the cars are clean, and you don’t need cash. With the fuel surcharge, extra person fees, and all other fees DC cabs tend to tack on, it usually ends up being within $5 of what I would spend on a DC Cab (which I suppose is a lot if you’re talking the difference between $10 and $15). But Uber tends to hand out credits left and right. They gave my boyfriend credit for a ride up to $40 just for being a loyal customer. They inserted $10 into my account on day because I was having a hard time finding an Uber in the vicinity because it was snowing.

    Downside is the $15 minimum…I’ve mostly taken rides that were more than $15 anyway, but the other night I noticed that my ride would have been $12 and they added $3 to add up to the minimum. So that’s kind of annoying. But not as annoying as trying to find a cab on my very quiet capitol hill street!

  • I use the TaxiMagic iphone app. I think it’s free.

    Each of their cabs accept cards, but carry cash just in case, and they’re pretty reliable.

    • I’ve tried Taxi magic 4 times and haven’t gotten a cab to actually come. I have used uber once and it was pleasant.

    • +1 for TaxiMagic on iPhone. I’ve used it frequently — both for on-demand and scheduled service. It has been one of the most hassle free ways to get a cab that I have experienced.

  • Before I bought my car, back when I had to take cabs on a regular basis, if I met a cabbie who seemed particularly honest and fair (as in didn’t ride the breaks the whole ride long, didn’t take me on an unnecessarily long ride around town) I’d get his or her business card and call them when I needed a ride. I developed a good user relationship with at least 2 cabbies that led to years of reliable rides and efficient service.

    • I haven’t tried Taxi by Larry, but he always gets plenty of excellent reviews on the Capitol Hill East listserv.

  • i love uber.

    please dont tell anyone about uber.

    everyone should use uber.

  • I love TaxiMagic… I’ve never had a problem with it and everytime I’ve used it the cabs arrived within 5 minutes…. It’s great.

  • the best thing with uber is something like this:

    you’re at the 9:30 club at a sold out show. the show ends. 100’s of people are trying to get cabs outfront and in the near by blocks. its cold out. you didnt bring a jacket.

    so you stay in the club, take out your phone, use their easy app, request a ride, it says ten minutes.

    you go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, say good bye to your friends, walk out side…

    and there is your own private car with driver waiting for you to take you home.


    Dont tell anyone ok?

  • I think Uber is a great idea and probably most appropriate for the 1%ers out there. But the OP mentions getting government subsidies, is transport by Mercedes S500 really appropriate? Did we all forget Navigatorgate? There has a to be a better option. Maybe find a retiree on craigslist who will do this for a flat fee for you when needed?

    • Uber is great. Love them, love them, love them. Because if you don’t have a car, the whole point is needing the person to be reliable.

      Also, the cost is not that much more than a cab as the PP pointed out after you account for the fee for calling the cab and a tip.

      And also the cost of taking a cab or car everyday is not as “extravagant” or 1% as it sounds. If you pay for parking (either at home or at work) and your car, it would actually far less money for many people to Uber twice a day on work days than own a car, which is not considered only for the 1%. ($30 dollars roundrtip x 20 work days = $600, way more than my bus fare, but way less than the cost for for parking, gas, a very modest car payment and insurance).

      Although I like the idea of finding a neighbor or carpool for this poster, that is not always practical, and more importantly, not what he or she asked for.

  • Yellow Cab is unreliable unless you have an account at work. They, like most cab drivers in this city, are also rude and feel it’s acceptable to treat their customers like trash.

    Yellow Cab refuses to pick me up in Capitol Hill in a timely manner on weekends and like most cabbies they refuse to take debit or credit cards – despite specific instructions on the phone to do so.

    The DC cab commission is apparently to blame (according to drivers).

    Also, a lot of the cars are dirty and/or old and cabbies have given me a hard time over breaking a $20 (not joking).

    Synopsis: DC is a joke when it comes to cabs. Probably hurts tourism and/or the perception of our country by foreigners.

  • It is so embarrassing that in DC you can’t request a cab–even far in advance–to pick you up a certain time.

    I learned this the hard way when I scheduled a Red Top cab (I’d heard they were the most reliable for pickups) to take a friend to the airport at 4AM. Sure enough, it didn’t show up, and the dispatcher I called justified it by saying “it’s hard to find someone in the area at this time of night.” Exactly! That is why I requested a cab in advance!

    I had to resort to pathetically standing outside the sketchy Columbia Heights 7-Eleven for almost half an hour until a rogue cab happened to come by. My friend now thinks DC is shady as hell.

    • Indeed. My cousin and her boyfriend from London were staying at my place recently, and I had to instruct them to walk down to a busy street with their luggage to catch a cab. I knew they’d never come if she called.

    • OMG, same exact experience with Red Top for me. My Christmas flight got canceled so I rescheduled for 6 the next morning. Called Red Top because I heard so many good things about them. 4 a.m. comes and goes. 4:30 comes and goes. I called several times and the dispatcher kept saying, “sorry we don’t have anyone in your area.” Why do you think I made a RESERVATION, lady. Finally called DC Cabs in a panic and someone showed up right away. I barely made my plane.

      So when people plug Red top in the discussions on this blog, I have to laugh — bitterly.

      • Addendum to anecdote. That was when I lived in Dupont Circle. Now that I live on the north side of Capitol Hill, can’t get anyone to pick up when called.

      • I’ve had the exact opposite experience every time I’ve booked Red Top. They’ve picked me up in MtP at 3:30 or 4am on multiple occasions. They’ve always been on time and there’s an automated number that calls when they’re outside. Plus, they always have a credit card machine.

        Every time I’ve scheduled Yellow Cab they’ve been late. I’ve *NEVER* been in a DC cab that accepts cards. I believe you all must be hallucinating this unicorn.

  • Taxi Magic is great, the trouble is that Yellow Cab blows. I’ve had the same problem getting them to just dispatch a fucking cab via the app that I used to have back when I used to call them and request one. The only difference now is that I get to bitch to Taxi Magic when they never show up/pick up another fare on the way instead/drive past my pickup address/pull any of their other shenanigans.

  • The short answer is no. But I lived in GP for 10 years before moving to Brookland and I never had a problem flagging a cab from the corner of Wisconsin and Calvert. I can’t even get them to come when I call now that I’m in Brookland.

  • Uber is AWESOME. A cab from U St to Gtown for me is usually $14-16 incl tip but Uber is $18-20 – if that increase is in the budget, uber is SO worth it. Taxi Magic has worked fine for us as well – we almost always use Yellow Cab through it. Now, we pretty much exclusively use Uber if we are arranging for a car though.

  • I feel your pain. I had to cab to and from work in the late stages of my pregnancy and it was absurd how long I would wait for one to come to my house–sometimes an hour and a half. I loathed the entire process. Had I known about Uber, I would have done that in a heartbeat!

  • Everyone should just boycott DC cabs and use Uber.

    • That’s what I’ve been doing for years (except I’d never used or even heard of Uber). It’s good to know there’s a good service out there if I ever break down and need a cab. Of course, I’ve managed about five years without needing one. 🙂

  • I too don’t drive due to poor eyesight so I totally know what you mean. My life pretty much revolves around the Metro as a result. There is plenty of good info below so i’ll just add that i have used the Taxi Radar app several times and it worked all but one of those times.

  • DC has by far the worst cab service of any major city. I’ve not used Uber as yet but plan to do so

  • Uber is the best! I also don’t take a cab more than 2-3 times a month, but living in Petworth, it is amazing to not have to walk to Georgia Ave to have cabs ignore me going downtown. I can watch my Uber arrive to my home, never need cash and have a reliable driver. Also, getting home from the bars is a breeze compared to fighting the drunks for a ride. It is a few dollars more, but is actually cheaper if you have 3 or 4 people since there is not a per person fee. Uber all the way!

  • I am switching to Uber after reading this. DC cabs are horrible and disgusting. I am so sick of riding around with people who think it’s appropriate to blast music right behind my head, shout into their bluetoof or try to give me their thoughts about life (as if I care what they think about any topic). I have lived on NY, London the Middle East and DC cabs are worse than all of them. Like much in DC I expect mediocrity at best.

  • Mats Car and Taxi Service is not only cheaper than Uber for the same style of service, but it is also extremely reliable (especially for those early morning flights!). The drivers are nice, and they are always on time for the pick up. After being screwed over by various DC cab companies, I use Mats anytime I need to order a taxi in advance.

    • slickhop

      +1 I use DC MATS for late night airport pick ups all the time. DCA to DC is $22, I get the same guy often, he’s really nice. More $ than a cab, but more reliable too.

      • slickhop

        ALSO, fixed rates are good for folks who get anxious about paying for cabs and calculating tip etc. I’m not proud to say that depending on the day this can get me just shy of panicked, especially if there’s traffic or whatever close to my destination and I have to keep doing math at the end …. I’m super nervous I’m going to inaccurately tip a cab driver and that they’ll axe murder me or something.

  • Thanks all for a lively and informative discussion. I definitely plan on trying Uber. I today installed the iPhone app and signed up. I’ll be pleased if such a small fleet can meet my expectations. Perhaps the slightly higher cost keeps people away. Actually as limousine services go Uber is inexpensive.

    One thing i had hoped to do was to embarrass the DC government into taking positive action. Pause… I had written a few letters to Dr. Gridlock and even attempted to participate in one of his live discussions. In both cases i was unable to reach him or more importantly his readers. I’ve also inquired about joining the Taxi commission. No answer. I’m trying to talk metroAccess into joining my lobbying effort. They’re always looking for ways to loose customers.

    This exchange has also yielded a question. What are reasonable expectations for taxicab service? I’ve little personal experience in other cities. Perhaps there’s not a whole lot a government can do? I’m hopeful there is.

    Thanks again,

    PS, I’ll keep reading.

  • I live on upper 14th St. And have waited 45 min for a cab. For me Über is worth the extra costs. I also don’t have to worry about rude or drunk DC cab drivers or lack of working a/c in a circa 1984 Impala.

  • I’m going to have to ck out this Uber. DC cabs are horrid! its even more noticeable if your from NYC. DC cab driving are rude, not very knowledgeable on the city, and just flat out intolerable.

    I’d rather pay Airport parking than pay cab fare.

  • The “Rocket Taxi” app for iphone lists all local cab companies, depending on location. You can use it here or anywhere you travel.

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