Dear PoPville – Why Won’t Cabs Stop?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jen Morrissey

Dear PoPville,

I live in Petworth, a few blocks off Georgia Ave near Moroni Brothers (Decatur St.). On Saturday night at 5:30 I needed to get a cab to go to a wedding, and I stood right out in front of the block with Moroni Bros and Fusion and Raz. It was light out, I was dressed nicely, and plenty of unoccupied cabs went past both south- and north-bound, including several with their lights on. And not a single one stopped! Plenty saw us, and waved us off instead of stopping. Why wouldn’t they stop for us? I can understand that maybe the northbound cabbies were heading home to the suburbs and wouldn’t be interested in turning around and taking us southbound (where we were going), but why wouldn’t a southbound cabbie stop? Are they not allowed to pick up street hails in the area or something? Eventually we had to go find a car2go, in our nice dresses and heels and carrying a pie for the wedding, and were just barely there on time. It was very frustrating. From now on I’ll be using a dispatch service, that’s for sure, but does anyone know what gives?

107 Comment

  • You’re dreaming if you think you’ll have better success with a dispatch service.

    Just use Uber. It may end up costing a few extra dollars but it will save you a lot of trouble.

    • I can’t stand how these threads turn into UBER marketing havens… As someone who’s been stranded in DC while cabs pass me, UBER isn’t the answer. DC Gov enforcing taxi cab laws are the answer. Promoting UBER in these types of posts is acknowledging discrimination and saying “hush now child”. $*@( Off with your UBER. No offense.

      • I agree, but until the DC Government bothers to enforce these taxicab laws advising someone to take Uber is sensible. Boycotting cabs entirely, like I have for the past five years, is also good advice, but not practical for everyone.

        • +1. Big taxi boycotter here.

        • I boycott cabs all the time without using UBER, it’s called having a car. I will not pay more because I’m black, and ever since segregation was overruled by Legal Precedent, I don’t see the need to support any service that thinks that segregation is acceptable, and that i don’t have rights to hail a cab.

          Call me militant if you wish, but I’m not a fan at all of UBER’s marketing, they should instead promote lower prices than cabs to stay competitive.

          • But they’re already doing plenty of things to be competitive: being courteous to customers, driving vehicles that are clean and have passed inspection, taking credit cards, arriving on time, knowing where to go, not doing sneaky things to rack up the fare, not demonstrating explicit racism/sexism/homophobia… am I forgetting anything?

          • >> not demonstrating explicit racism/sexism/homophobia

            Gee… Thanks UBER Marketing person…

          • I’m happy to drive the local cabbies out of business by taking Uber. They provide a service that I like – on time, clean, courteous, etc.

            If cabbies started elevating themselves to this level, I’d be happy to consider taking them again.

          • Wha?!? Your post makes no sense – and VERY weak attempt to drag race into this. 99% of the cab drivers are Black- so please dont use that as an excuse.

          • saf

            Not a weak arguement at all. The fact is, cabs don’t like to stop for black folk.

          • I havent read too far but someone has to have pointed out the error in this quote from jack5

            “Call me militant if you wish, but I’m not a fan at all of UBER’s marketing, they should instead promote lower prices than cabs to stay competitive.”

            … Enter the DC City Council to prevent Uber from competing with cabs from a fare perspective.

          • I’m black and I had a cabbie tell me outright, unsolicited, that cabbies don’t like picking up black people. The poster is not dragging race into this post. It’s apparently a well known, accepted practice among cabbies.

          • Blatant attempt by UBER at cheap marketing spamming here. Not a good look for the company. They should rename the service BLACKCABS and get it over with.

          • (1) Black person here…who gets passed up by cabs.
            (2) Car owner…there is often no parking and traffic in that part of town sucks.
            (3) Do I want to get there or not? Uber or DCMats for airport.
            (4) Yes, the cabs should be brought to heel…but in the meantime, I have shit to do.
            (5) I’m female. No way in hell I’m standing around alone at night.

      • Don’t be hating. Über is awesome. Yes, it’s a few dollars more, but, as someone who doesn’t even make that much money, it’s worth it for the quiet, friendly, smell-free, not concerned about the car breaking down ride. Sometimes the drivers have snacks and bottled water for passengers. I’ve had to take it twice when the metro has broken down and there’s a delay of 20 minutes or more at DuPont. Worth every penny. Cabs suck.

      • realistically, how can the DC government force cabbies to change this behavior? again, realistically, not in your liberal nanny state fantasies. If they don’t want to stop, they’re not going to, and no amount of hand wringing will change this.

        also, there is no dispatch service that will get you a cab in that area – or, indeed, anywhere within the city. the only working dispatch services are from arlington and bethesda, and you must be going out of DC to use them.

        thus, people bring up Uber, because it is the option that actually works.

      • I disagree – Uber is part of the answer by providing competition for the existing cabs. Cabs in DC can be terrible because there has been no viable alternative. If you didn’t want to take public transport or drive, you had to take a cab or stay home. Now, we have Uber. Taxis must adapt or die…or lobby the Council to protect them.

        BUT, you are right that the DC gov needs to do a better job of enforcing laws as well.

        • plus one.
          Indeed – competition is the only thing that can reliably force business to provide better services.

        • agreed. Uber is needed to force cabs into doing their jobs.
          I live in what is considered a very well to do neighborhood in the district and the only option to get a reliable cab is by using Uber since DC Cabs will not pick up in my neighborhood when dispatched.

      • DC should do a better job in taxi enforcement. However, I’m not turning off my home alarm system and leaving the door unlocked because DC should do a better job keeping criminals from stealing my stuff.

        Turn to Uber and perhaps the taxi commission/DC gov will try to fix it themselves, or taxis will go away for good. See USPS.

        • figby

          When Barack Obama was running for president and some were questioning whether he was “black enough,” he said — kind of laughing but really not — that every time he tried to hail a cab in DC, he felt plenty “black enough.”

      • Having been sexually assaulted by a DC cab driver (twice!) I would take Uber before setting foot in a DC cab again. Sorry.

      • Just get UBER on your iphone!

        Its the best choice you will ever make regarding transportation in this city!

      • Maybe people rave about Uber because it is a great service- just a thought.

        Uber should promote lower prices? Why? To suit your desires? My mom routinely uses them to go from my place to GWU hospital, especially when she found it cost only a couple bucks more than a cab ride. 2-3 bucks more for a super clean and nice car, door-to-door service, very polite drivers, and great customer service. Sounds like a decent deal to me…

  • live in the same area and it can be painful to get a cab. I’ve started using Uber if I need to get a cab from the neighborhood because I can’t count on others. We have even called one of the DC companies (I forget which one) when we were going to a wedding a year ago or so, and after ordering one, waiting 15 minutes longer than they told us the wait would be, and calling back, were told there weren’t any cabs in the area for dispatch. So frustrating.

    Use Uber. a bit more expensive, but worth it.

    • Similar story, I missed a flight once because the cab I called never showed up like they kept assuring me. I was near the Navy Yard, which by the way they were acting might as well have been Siberia.

      • Use Arlington Red Top. Like Uber, it actually works.

        • I’ve had and heard about too many no-shows for DC pickups by Arlington Red Top to agree with this. (They were always extremely reliable for Arlington pickups though.)

        • talula

          Red Top used to be awesome and reliable, but they’ve left me stranded twice in the past few months. No more Red Top for me, I now use Uber.

        • I don’t believe VA-based cabs can pick up fares in DC…

          • You are wrong.

            As long as the fare ends in VA, it’s perfectly legal.

          • they can’t pick you up on the street, but if you call Red Top they will come get you. 100% reliable in my experience. As is Uber. Really, both of these services are reliable to sketchy areas (like Bloomingdale where I live) because the act of calling or using the app to order them cuts down on the likelihood that the person summoning the cab is going to assault or rob the cab driver, which unfortunately is not the case if you are a cabbie picking up people on the street on Georgia Avenue.

        • I’m one of the people Red Top has stood up. DC cabs dispatch worked in that case and got me to the airport on time. Of course I lived around Dupont Circle at the time.

  • And someone’s gotta ask- Is OP black or white or hispanic or some other identifiable race?

    We can act like we’re all colorblind but for anyone who’s lived in NY or in DC we know cabbies are not.

    • I hate to be a cynic, but I was going to ask the same thing. I’m a white female who dated a black male for about 6 months. It got to the point when we took cabs where I would hail the cab while he stood back, then we would get in together. It was ridiculous that we had to do it, but we figured when we were tired and wanted to get home, it wasn’t a battle worth fighting.

      I also echo others’ sentiments-Uber is well worth the few extra dollars.

      • White people can’t get cabs just as much, it is more a issue of DC cabs being absolutely horrible versus sheer racism. Same problem I’ve had with white, black, latino, and asian friends.

      • Sounds about right, I’ve had to do the same thing for friends in the past. On many occassions. Stand a few steps away, I hail then they jump in. 1963 in Alabama. Uber = dignity

      • I’m white and my wife is black . . . we do the same thing when we need to hail a cab . . . she hides and I hail. It’s sad and disgusting, but the simple truth is that it’s easier for a white person like me to hail a cab. And we’ve given up completely on getting dispatch service to our house in Truxton Circle. We’re strictly an Uber household when it comes to dispatch. All this being said, the problem’s not unique to DC. We also have an apartment in Detroit, where my wife’s in grad school. I waited on the curb in the rain for 35 minutes at 5am last week for a cab to the airport that never came. Ended up hailing a cab with a broken meter that overcharged me to get me to the airport and almost missed my flight. I was really wishing there was Uber service in Detroit. I’m reluctant to give free advertising to any business service, but Uber is such a breath of fresh air that I can’t help but sing the company’s praises. Hallelujah!

      • Yep, it’s true. I am a white guy and most of my office-mates are black. We take taxis all the time between K Street and the Hill. I’m the designated hailer. At first I was like c’mon it but unless I’m the one with my arm out we’ll have taxi after taxi pass us by. It’s absolutely staggering.

    • I posted about having the same problem as OP and am a white male. If that matters to anyone.

  • They were probably just heading home – to Maryland – or back to base. Same happens @ Benning/Bladensburg – either heading home or to Yellow Cab homebase.

  • Why were you taking a pie to the wedding?

  • DC cabs are terrible because they can be. I live in Petworth too and use Uber if time is an issue and/or if the bus/metro is not convenient. Uber is slightly more expensive, but it’s been totally worth it.


    Start using Uber.

  • This is why it’s crazy that the D.C. taxi commission is attacking Uber. If they the D.C. cabs were doing their jobs properly and you could actually call a cab, if they would stop for you or if they didn’t try to throw you out when you want to go anywhere on the edge of the city I would understand. But as long as they continue to suck I’m sticking with Uber. Super nice drivers, fancy cars and will take you anywhere for just a few extra bucks.

  • shaybee

    because DC cabs are a joke. they always have been. use uber or plan accordingly.

    • PoP, something’s up, this comment is from “me” (anonymous) not from Shaybee and not sure how that happened

  • I live on U&17th and still have a problem getting a cab to stop for me. After Uber came to DC, I’ve simply stopped trying. No matter what time of day, catching a cab from my home is nearly impossilble, dozens with their lights on will just pass by. When I asked one cabbie, why this happens…his response? “They probably think you’re going to Anacostia or something”.

    The bad behaviour is rewarded by the DC cab commission with spikes in fees, etc. Cabs in DC will continue this way as long as they’re allowed.

  • Scrillin

    If it makes you feel any better, I live on a block near Cardozo with an inordinate amount of cabbies living there too, and I never miss an opportunity to mess with them.

  • gotryit

    I also can’t get a cab (about 1-2 miles south of you on Georgia Ave.), and dispatch was no help either. Ended up driving / parking at the airport, and almost missed the flight.

  • The DC taxi system is an embarrassment, dare I say the worse overall service of the top 10 US cities? Glad the fare increase went into getting credit card systems, GPS, and other standard things in each vehicle…oh wait

    • It’s really embarrassing. In all the cities I’ve traveled to (even in third world countries) the cabs and their drivers have been much better than those in DC.

      • agreed…taxis are better pretty much EVERY other city I’ve been to both in the U.S. and abroad. One thing we do have though is an abundance of taxis. Try finding one in NYC when its raining…

      • Cabbies in less developed countries are almost always better than American cabbies: they aren’t protected from outside competition.

      • first of all, what laws are you guys talking about? Is there a law that specifies that cabs MUST pick up a customer that appears before them? How would this possibly be enforced? You’d have to write the license plate # down of a cab that didn’t stop for you, register a complaint, and then somehow prove that the cab wasn’t en route to pick up another customer who called.

        Second, people who say the cabs are worse than even 3rd world cities you’ve been to- go to Beijing sometimes. You can get in a cab, tell them where you’re going, and they’ll say no no, not there and make you get out. Unbelievably frustrating.

        • Yes, there is a law.

          I can’t speak for Beijing, but the cabs I’ve taken in India, Turkey, Italy, Greece, London, Berlin, Mexico, Haiti, Jamica, etc have all been significantly better.

          • ah

            I can speak for Beijing, and some other cities in China, and they are worse there. Long waits, unsafe driving, on cellphones, won’t pick up (especially if white), dump you if you’re not going somewhere convenient, don’t watch the meter, take “breaks” where they are waiting for a better fare, and so forth. Plus the taxis are small rattle traps instead of large rattle traps.

  • Same problem happens on 16th St. I use the Taxi Magic app and have had good luck with them and it doesn’t cost more because it’s just a taxi.

  • saf

    First, did you see this piece by the chair of the DCTCC?

    Second, I have never been able to hail a cab near my home. Nor can I get a cab to come when we call. I live a few blocks west of the Georgia Ave/Petworth metro station.

    Actually, 20 years ago, there was ONE cab company that would do early morning airport pickups. We miss you, Clean Air Cab!

    Other than that company, seriously, I have never had any luck getting a cab in this neighborhood. Not on the street, not by calling.

    I can hail one downtown (ah, the advantages of being a middle-aged white woman), and they have brought me home (bitching all the way). I don’t understand why they won’t come here for phoned-in pickups though. Makes having parties more frustrating than necessary.

  • Honestly, because of the pictures, I thought the post was about taxicab not stopping at intersections. I’m hispanic, live in Dupont and never problems flagging a cab, but for some reason, they never stop when I cross an intersection. Even when I have a green on the crosswalk, they still block the crosswalk and honk at me for having the chutzpah of trying to cross the street on a crosswalk with a green light.

    Can we start a thread about taxicabs not stopping?

  • taxis in DC will continue to suck as long as they have the council in their back pockets to back them up. Whenever DC wants to legislate anything that might improve service (remember the decades long battles over zones versus meters), an unmarked envelope full of cash to a certain Councilmember will usually do the trick or at least delay the inevitable. Competition will do more to fix the current taxi system then enforcement from DC govt!

  • I live at the corner of Georgia and Lamont, and it is next to impossible to catch a cab on Georgia Ave. I typically just walk to 14th Street, where I get a cab within one or two minutes. What a difference a couple of blocks can make!

  • One possibility is that it is a VA or MD based cab–if they pick up someone in DC they are theoretically able to be fined $1000.

    -This thread sponsored by Über.

  • are you african american by chance or another race with dark skin? if so, that could be a reason. my african american friend usually hides behind a tree or mailbox while one of our white frieds hails a cab and then we do the ole’ switcheroo.

  • After three near misses with early morning flights (had to drive to the airport and park after supposed “dispatched cabs” never showed) I have begrudgingly started using uber as well. I don’t like paying the higher rate, but I have not once had them fail to show once I request a car.

  • I’m a white female and often try to get a taxi to work near the Georgia Ave. metro station around 9:00am. Empty taxis frequently pass me by on their way downtown. It is so frustrating. I wave my arm at them and they wag a finger at me and shake their heads no. That’s not about race, or heading home to MD. I don’t understand why they won’t pick me up.

  • I live further south on GA ave, closer to Howard- many cabs who don’t stop are headed home. They should probably turn their lights off but if you’re heading in the same direction as them then they may be willing to take you. Although they are supposed to take you where you’d like if they are accepting fare, they often decide it’s not worth their while. I’ve started waiting at the gas station near my house where many cabs will fill up and ask them there.

    I very rarely take cabs, but if Uber works for you due to your location, you should endeavor to share that with the DC council- it’s an excellent example of why they are needed in the market. Good luck!

  • Im tired of getting in cabs and having to explain, multiple times, where Petworth Metro station is. I don’t expect every cabbie to know every freakin’ block of the City but at a minimum shouldn’t they at least know where metros are located as a point of reference. Don’t even get me started on trying to actually hail at cab on GA ave in Petworth, thats next to impossible.

  • Hi everyone,
    OP here. I’m kind of impressed with the level of interest in this thread, thought I was asking a factual question about taxicab rules and where they can stop but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to tap into this deep vein of taxi theory!

    In response to some questions–I wish my race and gender weren’t relevant, but I guess it is. We were a group of white people, one male and three females, dressed to the nines to go to the wedding. The pies were chocolate mousse and key lime, and indeed, they were for the wedding because hello?! pies are better than wedding cake!

    I guess I’ll give Uber a try. I haven’t used it yet, but I have successfully used dc yellow cab dispatch service to get a taxi to my house, which I regret not doing the other day. Personally, I have never had a problem with a terrible cabbie. Broken window switches and ACs, sure, but my cabbies in general have been friendly, known how to get around the city with sometimes a little help from me on a specific address, and I’ve never felt unsafe in a cab. Maybe I’m just lucky so far! But I haven’t been tempted to pay the higher Uber prices until now.

  • If you want to get ripped off and treated like crap, take a DC cab. If you would like timely, polite service, call Uber.

  • We live a short ways north of the location in question and have had a longish wait getting a taxi heading towards the 9:30 Club, even waiting on the southbound side of the street.

    Really don’t get the Uber hate. If you don’t like it or think it’s too expensive or think it’s cutting in on somebody’s business, just don’t use it. Personally, I’ve never had a “bad” taxi experience, but we have a 7am international flight coming up and there’s no way in hell we’re trusting any taxi to show up at 4:30am. Ubering to the airport.

    And yes! Pie > Cake!

  • Depending on what time it was, it may have been shift change. I get annoyed with cabs in this town, they just don’t get it. If you are available, turn your light on and if you have a fare turn it off. Also, why the heck don’t they know how to get around this town. There is also clearly a lot of “choice” about who they pick up when.

  • To me, this is the biggest benefit of Uber: they’ll come get you in areas where cabs don’t normally go. I was recently on 5th and Florida NE, by Union Market. I’ve never been able to hail a cab there, but Uber was there in 7 minutes.

  • Honestly taxi cabs are getting worse this year.

    Parking in the middle of intersections to pick up fares. Driving in the middle of the lane and when you try to pass them they come back over quickly to cut you off. I had one the other night ridding in the middle of two lanes and after I got tired of his stuff I just passed him only to have him pull up to me and say he is going to kill me, lucky for me I am legally licensed to kill in DC so I took his threat seriously and had him booked. Take that Taxi man.

    • You are lucky. I had two cab drivers screaming sexist insults at me and threaten to kill me because I had pulled into “their spot” (the curb in front of a building and not an official taxi stand) to pick someone up. I just stayed in the car with the doors locked. They think as women we should bow down to them, but that’s not how it works in this country.

    • ah

      What is with cabbies and straddling lanes? They do it all the time, and not just when there’s some plausible “need to move to either side for a fare” situation. I realize most cabbies think normal traffic rules don’t apply to them, but what is the rationale for disobeying this basic one (as opposed to, say, speed limits, red lights, and no-u-turn signs)?

  • I live further down Georgia by Kenyon and I have not had any issues having a cab stop for me if it was empty. That would surely be frustrating though and I have not heard of this issue before.

  • I am a white female who lives on Georgia Ave. I regularly have issues catching a cab on Georgia Ave and am regularly refused rides home to Georgia Ave.

    I have started using Uber because they are always willing to come, helpful, clean, and professional. Something almost every cab in DC is lacking.

    • I agree that cab service in DC leaves a lot to be desired-in addition to the other complaints listed, they drive like maniacs. But the Uber cheerleaders are missing that it is not a cost-effective option for people who are only taking a short trip. I looked up the fares when it started, and Uber’s were about double what I pay for a cab to work. If you live in an underserved area or have a long trip, sure, Uber starts looking pretty good. But please don’t pretend like a $15/trip minimum is not a prohibitively expensive option for a lot of people.

  • Judging by this thread, I think I’m going to start a taxi hailing service. Put your location in on your smartphone and I’ll dispatch a generic white guy to come hail a taxi for you.

  • I always seem to get in fights with cabbies because they add random extra fares they can’t explain (i know the fare schedule) or try and take me 1 mile out of the way on a 2 mile journey.

    I had one driver once who was great and has been driving for decades. He said the admittance test used to much harder. They would get 10 addresses and from memory point where they were and provide 2 routes to get there, and they would need to get 8 in order to pass.

    A few years ago, it switched to a 5 question, multiple choice test where they only have to get 3-4 correct…..

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