Dear PoPville – Heads Up on New Taxi Rates and Shenanigans

Photo by PoPville flickr user AWard Tour

Dear PoPville,

I just wanted to share with you and perhaps your readers that shenanigans are already afoot with the new DC taxi rates. My wife and I had an early dinner out tonight, and because of the rain were compelled to take a cab home. The cab driver already had his meter set for the new mileage rate but had no qualms about throwing on the $1.50 for the “additional passenger” charge. When pressed, he offered to take off the additional charge, but then balked at providing change to us as we departed the vehicle at our destination. We sorted it out, and will be reporting him to the cab commission. I’m sure my wife and I are not the only ones who will have this stunt attempted this evening (or over the next few days), so we thought it would be worth sharing the word of caution.

On April 21st taxi rates increased to $2.16 per mile. However, the DC Taxi Commission wrote:

“New taxi fare rates will go into effect on April 21, 2012. All meters will “not” be re-calibrated to reflect the change by April 21, 2012. Taking this into consideration, drivers may continue to operate under the old rates until re-calibration or the May 31, 2012 deadline.”

Also note that the emergency fuel surcharge continues until June 20th and could be extended longer at that point.

Having said all that, has anyone else noticed any shenanigans like the OP noted above?

76 Comment

  • I haven’t been in a cab in DC since the changes took effect, but I pretty much expect such shenanigans.

  • T

    Is the extra charge per passenger completely gone? The Express paper this morning indicated that it was just capped at $3.

  • This happened to me as well on Saturday. He claimed he wasn’t sure about the new rates, but then “called in” and said yeah, I’ll take the $1.50 off. I’m sure many many more folks have been ripped off by that driver out of ignorance.

    The taxi Commission is going to have to do something. They shouldn’t be able to even adjust the button for additional passengers anymore.

  • I was curious since I really don’t take taxis…on paper, the increase for the rate per mile is astounding, I admit. In reality, though, with the exception of a taxi to/from airport (for which I think it should be a flat-rate, as many cities do), for example, will the rate increase actually make cabs within the city be that much more expensive?

    • A trip from Adams Morgan to 7th and E with no traffic cost $12.64, which is definitely more expensive than previous meter rates and of course more expensive than the zones (which I personally was a fan of, but I know I’m in the minority on that one).

      • Seriously zones were great. I get why the tourists hated them, but if you lived in DC and could read a map that were great for long distant trips. I use to be able to go by AU, right below the zone border at Nebraska to Potomac Metro for 12.80.

        Plus with zones cabbies had no icentive to take you a slow and out of your way route. Further the tourists with their short trips subsidized my longer ones.

        • They may not have had incentive to drive slow, but they definitely used to go out of their way with the zones. I had more than one argument with a cab driver over the route they were taking under the zone system because they were trying to cross as many zone boundaries as possible.

          • It also sucked if you lived right on a border. It never mattered how many times I would say “16th and U Streets NW on the SOUTH SIDE OF THE STREET.” The driver would always pull through the intersection and try to charge me for the additional zone.

          • It didn’t matter how many zones they crossed, the fare was a flat fee from the zone of origination to the zone of destination regardless of whether the driver chose to go through all the other zones on the way or take the most direct route. I, too, was a huge zone fan because I knew the zones and the rates. Now I don’t step foot in a cab.

  • Took one Saturday evening and the only “shenanigans” were the typical too long drive to get where we needed to go so as to increase the fare. I’m done with D.C. cabs and will only use them in an emergency (walked in the rain and took the bus home Saturday night to avoid cab).

    • Same thing happened to us early Saturday morning – we were charged the new rate and the additional passenger add-on. I didn’t confront the driver over it since I wasn’t positive what the new rate structure was, but figured it out after researching online when I was home.

      To dat: only vans can charge the additional passenger fee, and its capped at $3 for them. Normal cabs can’t charge it at all.

      Its easy to tell when the new rates are being charged, because you’ll get numbers in the rate that aren’t divisible by 25 cents. If you start seeing 7s and 4s as the last number in the fare, there shouldn’t be any add-ons except the fuel surcharge.

  • To be fair, there are some (very few, in my experience) good cabbies out there. Unfortunately, they are heavily outnumbered by drivers who want to take the riders for everything they have. Whether it’s not following the designated route I have provided (to tack mileage on), to “not having change” (shenanigans), etc.

    I will do everything in my power to avoid taking a cab. The latest rate increase is the final straw for me. It’s one thing to increase rates and require cab drivers to do something in exchange. But the lag time between the rate increase and the new requirements (credit cards, safer cabs, etc.) is absurd. Must be nice to be rewarded before complying with said regs.

  • Happened to me a couple times this weekend – tried to fight the cabbie he wasn’t having it…. decided it wasn’t worth the fight. It’s obvious when the new rate is being charged.

    I’ll be taking Uber more often now!

  • claire

    Hmm, took a cab Saturday night & was paying enough attention to see that he added the extra passenger fees, but I didn’t notice if he was using the new rate amount or not… I just assumed that the new rates hadn’t yet taken effect. That would explain why it ended up so pricey though!

  • Public transportation my friends is the way to go! We have too many cab drivers and by and large, they drive like crapola. I see them as a menace.

    Yes, it is good to have as an option in an emergency but we just have too many and they don’t take the rules of the road to heart.

    • I see your point, but after nearly getting assaulted walking home by myself in January, I definitely take cabs when it’s late and I’m alone. Living a mile away from the metro in NE, public transportation isn’t always an option for me.

  • I’ve had the “I have no change” scam happen several times. I never offer larger than a $20 bill, so if I get that line I just tell them they will have to suck it up. If they want to call the police and explain they don’t make change, go right ahead.

    • ah

      Not sure how offering a $20 solves things–I try to make sure I have a $5 and a $10. If they can’t make proper change for that then it’s coming out of their tip.

      As for their tip, if they want the $1.50 passenger surcharge that can also come out of their tip.

    • That happened to me on Friday night. I got in the cab and the cabbie told me he didn’t have any change, nor did he know where the address was that I gave him (it’s a fairly well-known street in DC.)

      I promptly got out and took another cab. Cabbies in DC are awful.

    • It’s based on the assumption that you’re in too much of a hurry for them to go make change. Just make them drive somewhere to get change – and make sure they turn the meter off while they’re driving around.

  • I thought the fuel surcharge went away when they implemented the new rates.

  • “All meters will “not” be re-calibrated to reflect the change by April 21, 2012.”

    So that means they WILL be recalibrated? Who the hell writes this stuff, anyway?

    • I think it means exactly what it says. They have until 5/31 to re-calibrate their meters, so all meters will not be re-calibrated by 4/21 (the day the new rates go into effect).

      • I was snarking on the total misuse of quotation marks, which is all too common these days. People are using them for emphasis instead of to designate that a word shouldn’t be taken at face value. You want emphasis, use italics or all caps.

  • Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum from the streets.

  • Wait, I thought the whole “consumer-friendly” part of the rate increase was that there would be no surcharges. Why the “emergency” fuel surcharge then?

  • The other night a friend told me the cabbie had charged an “it’s raining” surcharge. Apparently he said something about how since the car wasn’t all-wheel drive, slippery conditions cause extra wear and tear so there’s a surcharge. Like a snow emergency. Baloney!

  • Happened to me yesterday. His meter was using the new rate (price went up in odd intervals) and he added 2.50 (extra passenger and gas surcharge). When I arrived at my apartment, I paid him the fare, minus the 2.50 and minus a tip. I said, “maybe next time you’ll be honest and you’ll earn a tip.”

  • I don’t travel in cabs often enough or ask for receipts to know the answer to this: Do the receipts list the fare calculation or just the total due? it’d be nice to have something on paper that showed the fare + surcharges punched in by the driver.

    • The printed receipt should show that, but in practice a dishonest cabbie will NEVER give you a real receipt.

  • Overcharges happen all the time, not just around fare changes (though that makes it particularly prevalent). Just a couple of weeks ago, I had a cab where the meter was set to add up miles too quickly (even though the rate per (supposed) mile was correct).

    This has happened to me multiple times in the past year. I highly recommend checking the distance and doing your own calculations if you are suspicious about a fare (but remember to include waiting time at lights).

    DC’s taxi system is embarrasing. There is no excuse for stricter standards not being enforced.

    The heart of my recent complaint is below:

    ***Google Maps distance: 2.4 miles***
    ***printed receipt distance: 3.9 miles***
    fare: $9 rate + $1 extra = $10 (correct fare IF the mileage were actually 3.9, but the mileage was way off)

    I often take cabs between these locations, so I am familiar with the typical fare. I realized the fare was going up too quickly and mentioned it to the driver. He said, “How much do you normally pay?” I told him $10, including tip, so he turned the meter off when it got to $10, even though my destination was about three blocks further (Euclid between 16th and 17th).

    In response to my protests, he said, “The fares have gone up.” I said, “When?”. He said, “The day before yesterday.” He went on to explain that all the meters had to be switched over by some date later in April, and that for now the new rates were “optional.” I know that a rate increase has been proposed but has not yet taken effect. I looked at the DC Taxi Commission website on my phone to confirm what I knew.

    I asked for a receipt. He started to write out and old-style hand-written receipt. I said I wanted the printed receipt. He said that he uses the printed receipts for his accounting — that he needs them to add up the distances and fares and such. I said that the printed receipt is for the passenger, that he could copy all the information down or print a second receipt. I had to insist at least a dozen times (literally!) before he would give me the printed receipt. (There was a stream of dozens of receipts hanging from the meter, so either no one had asked for a receipt all morning or else he had only given out hand-written receipts.)

    In the crazy conversation, he acknowledged that he wasn’t “following the rules,” but insisted he wasn’t cheating passengers!

    I took a photo of his taxi license, so anticipating that I would report him, he said I didn’t need to pay. I insisted on paying him $10, but he kept trying to give it back to me. He even got out of the cab and followed me down the sidewalk, begging me not to report him and trying to give my money back.

    • Report him, he deserves it!

    • Please report him. Why does intentionally cheating people deserve mercy? He might as well be stealing $4 out of your pocket.

      • To clarify, I did report this incident. The excerpt above is from my complaint to the Taxi Commission.

        fyi, for proper complaints, you’re supposed to have “name of the operator, vehicle license tag and date and time of the incident.” If you take a photo of the taxi license, you’ll have name and taxi licensing number, but not the vehicle license tag. Who knows? They probably use the car tag requirement just to be able to ignore the vast majority of complaints….

        • Indeed, because it is so difficult to ID the drivers, its basically impossible to report them – and this is of course what DCTC wants as an industry lobby. Cabbies that have given me trouble routinely refuse to give their license #.

  • I had this happen this morning – when I questioned the driver, he muttered something about not having the right meter, etc. I’m glad I didn’t pursue the conversation, because I didn’t know about the May 31 deadline.

  • Was charged the additional pax fees & fuel surcharge on Sunday. Did not argue b/c it seemed he was still using the old rates (now realize he had old rate b/c total was a factor of $0.25). Will be watching more closely in future though.

  • I almost came to blows with my cabbie yesterday because I was certain the fuel surcharge was removed. But the press release linked above indicates it’s still in effect until 6/20.

    Do i need to admonish myself or has it actually been removed? Completely unclear.

    • Regardless, remain pretty resentful about the fact we are paying “emergency” fuel surcharges” for a year and a half.

    • PDleftMtP

      That extension announcement is from before the new rates went into effect – it doesn’t really tell us anything one way or the other.

  • does anyone know what the different rate #s mean? I was in a cab the day before the new rates and noticed the meter was using “rate 2” there was also a “rate 3” option. I’m assuming it has to do with rush hour/non-rush hour but would like to know the difference so as not to get scammed.

    The “no change” thing happens at least 50% of the time with cabbies in DC.

    • From the DCTC website:
      “Rate 1 shall be used unless a Snow Emergency has been declared for Rate 3 or Hourly Hire for Rate 4. Rate 2 has been abolished. Meter-generated receipts are the only valid receipts permitted and shall be made available upon passenger’s request.”

      • PDleftMtP

        Except that they just abolished the snow emergency rate and replaced it with a flat $15 surcharge. DCTC’s website sucks.

        • Wow… that quote was from the press release about the new fare increase… so yeah, i don’t know what’s what then. *shrugs* I tried. lol

      • What a crock of sh*t. I take cabs all the time for work and always ask for receipts. About one times out of ten I get a meter-generated receipt. The rest of the time I get handed one of those stuipd pieces of paper that I’m supposed to fill in myself.

        Seriously, why isn’t there any kind of enforcement of regulations of the cabs in this city? They are dishonest crooks because they know they can get away with it.

    • Someone should create an app where you can put in your pick up and drop off location, time started, time completed, etc. information and it will tell you EXACTLY how much the rate should be. Anyone? Anyone?

      • Washington Post has a pretty handy tool for that:

        Can’t totally vouch for it, but I regularly take cabs home from downtown, and the Post estimation was pretty close. For a comparison, my taxi ride typically costs around $13.50 before tip, so around $16 with tip. Took the same ride last week via Uber and it cost $22. A little more than I wanted to spend, but the car was lovely, the driver was nice, and I didn’t feel like I was getting ripped off. (I hate sitting in the cab and feeling like a chump.) So, I won’t be using Uber all the time, but it’s certainly a good option.

      • That app idea is brilliant! Every cab ride is an episode of that old MTV show “Boiling Point” for me. How many wrong turns, concentric circles around my destination and surcharges can the driver add in to my fare before I rip the Bluetooth out of his ear. I never truly know what the fare should start at when getting in a cab. It seems to vary between $3.00 and $4.50 before we even pull away from a destination….

  • PDleftMtP

    One last try. The Examiner has a report of an interview with Linton in which they say the surcharge is gone (but it isn’t a quote, so you don’t know whether the reporter filled it in with the same crappy resources we’re all looking at).

    • I actually just called the DCTC to get a definitive answer, and they confirmed the fuel surcharge was still in effect until 6/20. I brought up the discrepancy you highlighted, but apparently the emergency measure trumps whatever the new regulations are… so, clear as mud, and seems like a sop to the cabbies.

      I was encouraged to weigh in with the Commission at the next monthly meeting on May 23rd at 10 am (which takes place at 441 4th Street NW), and to write a letter to the DCTC and Chairman Linton at 2041 MLK Jr. Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20020.

      I think everyone in PoPville should do the same and urge them NOT to extend the surcharge.

      • WTF? Cabbies complain gas prices are too high to make a living so they get a surcharge. Cabbies then complain rates are too low to make a living so the rates get raised. And the surcharge is still in place?!?!?

        Ugh, this kind of confusion/rip-off/bs is the reason why I use cabs only as a last resort.

  • I go less than a mile (cab from Gallery Place to Shaw) one night a week because I take classes and I get home very late. How much do people usually tip? Sometimes I feel like I overtip (and sometimes it’s worth it–I’ve had a couple of cabbies who were actually very very nice and chatting and got me to my destination quickly and in the right route) but others are awful or pretend not to hear where I’m going. For those I’ve given as little as 50 cent tip just because I don’t want to wait for change and don’t think they deserve anymore. For a regular old cab ride, for what amounts to .9 miles, and considering the fuel charge in my case is bullshit considering the distance covered, what is an appropriate tip?

    • With the new rates, make sure to carry lots of nickels, dimes, and pennies so you can pay exact fare, and avoid letting them keep the change as a tip. No tip should be the rule until this whole mess is fixed.

  • About the different rates: this is the most common way that drivers scam passengers. Rate 1 is the normal rate. Rate 2 used to be for rush hour. Rate 3 is the VERY HIGH snow emergency rate. If you are in a cab and it doesn’t say Rate 1, you are being cheated. Happens very often.

    Yesterday, I got in a cab running the old rates who charged me a miscellaneous extra $3, told me it was to make up for the new rates, and then had the meter on Rate 3 — AND he had a little clip blocking the rate indicator. I had to ask him to see it.

    Once I called him on it, he calmly restarted the meter at Rate 1 and without the surcharges. No apology for his attempted fraud. About 10 blocks later he said, “You know the city very well, young lady.” (Perhaps because I know enough to prevent DC taxi driver fraud?)

    • “You know the city very well, young lady”

      HAHA. Amazing, you should be proud… but that driver should be ashamed. What a crook and a liar. The city needs to send out mystery shoppers for a while to combat this. They also need to outright revoke licenses after a few “strikes” or issue enormous fines.

  • Do the newly configured meters look different or is there another way to tell that drivers are charging the new rate without doing a ton of mental math? How would one avoid being fooled into being charged the new rate AND the surcharges?

  • I sort of understand that it takes time to recalibrate the meters, but a hard changeover date would be much better in the future.

    It’s this grey area of a two week transition that’s causing hell.

  • had an awful cab driver a week ago. Spent the first half of the trip driving 10mph, hitting every light because he was messing with his phone. tried to take me up 18th street through the construction while bypassing 14th and 15th (i was going to columbia and 18th). He stopped at a green light to argue with me about the route when i called him out. at the end of the ride, the cab fare was 8.50. he took my $20 and turned off the meter. he asked me how much change i wanted back and was unhappy when i told him i wanted all of it — noway will i tip someone like that. he tried to give me $8 back. when i told him the meter said $8.50 before he turned it off, he said that the meter was reading how much my change was. I demanded my money, noted that he turned the meter off and didn’t have his license displayed anywhere in the cab and told him that we could call the police to find out how much was owed. he parked the car, ran into a liquor store and got my change. I’ve never seen a fat man run so fast.

  • Had my first awful experience in a new-meter cab today. The driver was very nice, but the fare was so expensive I almost couldn’t believe it. He took me down 11th from Park and took Florida to 14th, and stopped at 14th and Eye. This fare would usually be $8-9 or so, even in traffic. My fare today was over $17. There was moderate traffic, so I checked the Post fare calculator thinking this was outrageous–but the calculator says this trip is now $15 or so in traffic.

    I only took a cab today because I didn’t want to be late for a meeting (which ended up being canceled anyhow) but a 50% increase in fare overall is truly outrageous.

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