Dear PoPville – Cabs Refusing to Drive to Eastern Market

Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

“Dear PoPville,

As a person though who grew up on the Hill and often depended on cabs to get me home from NW safely, and dealt with cabs refusing to come to Petworth after I moved in 07, this really got my goat! Amazing now getting to Petworth is easier than the Hill.

I am so mad at DC’s taxi system. I sent this complaint to the DC Taxi Commission tonight. After the following event occurred, I told my own driver that this is exactly why Uber is thriving in this city. Terrible!

This evening, my friend hailed two cabs seeking transportation to Eastern Market from Belmont and Columbia Road NW. The first didn’t accept her after we informed the driver she was going to the Hill. We decided to not inform the second driver since we knew it was illegal for the cab to refuse, so better for her to enter the cab. She got in and I thought departed for her destination. After getting into my own cab going to Petworth, I discovered her on the next corner. She reported the driver had refused to take her to the Hill, and asked her to leave the cab. This is illegal. She deserves a safe ride home in a taxi if she able to pay the fare.

The DC Taxi Commission reinforces the incredibly poor, antiquated taxi service in the city. This type of behavior in addition to the resistance of drivers to incorporate credit card payment options makes our city a laughingstock.”

Response to the OP from the DC Taxicab Commission:

“The DCTC is aggressively enforcing what we consider to be one of the most egregious violations of our regulations: Failure to Haul which carries a $500 fine. We appreciate your bringing this to our attention. If the individual who experienced this violation will email or call David Person ([email protected]; 202 645-6008) and provide him with the information necessary to identify the driver we will initiate an action against the driver. Ordering a passenger from a vehicle is a violation called “abusive conduct” and would be an additional $500 fine. We also endeavor to see that users of taxies in The District know their passenger rights. Passengers have the right to enter a taxi that stops for them, enter it, close the door and then inform the driver where they want to go. The driver then is obligated to serve that passenger. Any passenger who a driver physically attempts to eject should immediately summon the Metropolitan Police Department. Thank you for your assistance.

Ron M. Linton
DC Taxicab Commission”

88 Comment

  • Yea, good luck with that.

  • I live and work near Eastern Market and have had this problem many times. Once I almost missed a flight because the cab I called never showed up! Now I just use Uber.

  • Why would a cab driver refuse to go to Eastern Market?

    • Because it’s “far” and it might take them as long as 5 minutes to find a new passenger to pick up once they’re there.

  • I’m puzzled as to why you bothered to send a complaint to the DC Taxicab Commission.

    • I filed a complaint last year about a cab that refused to transport me. I had the license plate info – I received a response saying they’re following up and then later a response saying the driver had been fined (I forget the amount) for failure to transport.

  • As someone who lives in Navy Yard, I’ve never had this problem. The reason? I use Uber Cab or Taxi Magic almost every time, and I definitely never tell the driver where we’re going until we’re already in the cab.

    That sucks she got kicked out though; maybe they’ll find and cite the driver, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  • I find it absolutely mind-boggling that the DCTC has the authority to regulate competitors, including livery services like Uber, when the service they are providing is (and has historically been) so incredibly poor. Our taxi system here is laughable.

  • DC cabs are terrible and the Taxi Commission is a joke. If you want any of this to change, vote Tommy Wells for mayor.

    Until then, a) always get in a cab before stating the destination and b) if anybody tries to push you out of the cab, tell them it’s a $1000 fine, get their operator number and start dialing. They’ll start moving.

  • As a Hill resident, my go-to from NW is to tell the cab driver I’m going to Chinatown – Mass Ave. When we’re close to that, I tell the driver I was supposed to meet a friend but they’re not feeling well or something to that effect, and then ask them to take me home, figuring Chinatown is at least on the way to the Hill. After getting rejected by too many cabs, it’s sad that I have to resort to a dishonest tactic. But it works.

    • That’s ridiculous. Seriously guys, just plan 5 minutes ahead and order up an Uber so you don’t have to scheme and strategize your way home.

      • Or just spend 30 seconds scheming in the back of a cab so you don’t have to wait for an uber or pay the additional fee.

      • Uber is not in everyone’s budget.

        • I take the $1.50 bus when I go out so I can afford the extra couple of dollars to take Uber back home.

        • If you can afford a cab, you can afford Über. They are both out of the price range people who can’t afford a car service.

      • Because EVERYONE can afford Uber, apparently.

        Seriously, I’m sick of everyone telling me to “just use Uber.” These people (like, my fresh-out-of college coworkers–I know how little they make!) must have different budget priorities than I do. It is not just a little more expensive than a cab, it is A LOT more expensive.

        • What an extra 5 dollars or less? It doesn’t cost much more in the scenario described.

          • I think Uber is great when you’re truly in a pinch or need to schedule an early morning airport pickup.

            I’m referring more to people who constantly talk about how they refuse to take cabs and rely 100% on Uber in all situations. I do not understand how most of them (I’m talking 20-somethings, not executives) can afford their lives.

          • When I first moved to the area (pre-Uber) a cab driver drove me out to a deserted parking lot, grabbed my arm, and stuck his hand up up my skirt before I was able to get away. After a similar thing happened to my cousin and to a friend I vowed never to take a cab alone again. I’m pretty frugal, and usually rely on buses or my feet to get somewhere, but when I do decide to take a cab I think my safety is worth whatever extra amount I might have to pay with Uber. Last weekend it cost me $21 to get from Dupont Circle to Capitol Hill, and I can’t imagine it would cost that much less to take a regular cab with tip. Then again, I haven’t taken a regular cab in over 6 years so I don’t really know what they charge anymore!

          • “I do not understand how most of them (I’m talking 20-somethings, not executives) can afford their lives.”

            I’ve lived my entire 20s here without taking cabs, so it doesn’t seem difficult to add a couple of Uber rides onto nothing.

          • I should add that my rant is aimed at people who don’t take the metro or bus, either. Recently I took the H4 from Columbia Heights to Cleveland Park, and they were like, “I can’t believe you took the bus when you could just have called an Uber!” Same for when I took the metro from DC to Alexandria.

            (I realize this is a digression from a discussion about cabs, I’ve just been experiencing a weird internal Uber backlash lately, which I guess has nothing to do with this thread. 🙂 )

          • People in their 20’s have a right to spend a big chunk of their income on transportation if they want to. But they have no right to be judgmental of you for choosing cheaper options.

        • Uber Taxi isn’t. It’s a $2 fee plus a 20% tip, and the normal metered taxi rate.

        • Honestly if your budget is that tight you have no business taking cabs in the first place.

          • Anon @2:25. So, you can’t imagine the rare time or two that a non-car owning person might need to take a cab? Many of us budget for emergencies even when cash is tight.

        • Look for the newest service, Lyft, and its pink mustaches. It’s the cheapest ride-sharing option around and you get to sit up front.

        • AllTheThings, I agree! Hitchhiking’s free and way more interesting.

        • Actually, it’s not “A LOT more expensive.” If you use Uber taxi, it’s only $2 more (the dispatch fee). You can even change the tip amount if you don’t want to pay 20%..

        • Uber taxi is the meter fare plus an additional $2.00 dispatch fee. You don’t need the sedan service which is more expensive

      • Reminds me of the time I offered to give someone a ride home from a party. I was living in SW at the time, and she said she lived near Union Station. As we approached Union Station she told me to keep going, just a little bit further. Turned out she lived out by Capitol Heights! I was pissed.

  • Don’t forget to get whatever information you can about the driver, like license number, cab company, cab number, license plate, etc.

    If I were you, I would call 911 to report it. Maybe notify your council member as well.

    There was a Greater Greater Washington post a few years back about how this happened to David, so he called the Taxi Commission while he was in the car. He was eventually connected to the DCTC chairman (Leon Swain at the time), who spoke directly to the taxi driver.

  • Honestly, she’s probably lucky he refused to take her. If he’s that cavalier about breaking the rules, he’d probably break another rule like not sexually assaulting the passenger (something else DC cab drivers are notorious for).

    • OK troll bait.

      • Don’t trivialize or discredit those of us who have been the victims of sexual assault by DC cab drivers. Please. It was a terrifying experience and I just want to warn other women to avoid taking cabs alone.

        • In no way am I trivializing what was surly a traumatic and terrible experience, but not all cab drivers are predators.

          • You have to admit it’s pretty common though. And the cab drivers usually get away with it, so there’s little incentive for them not to try. You wouldn’t get into a car with an anonymous stranger, so why is a cab driver any better? At least with Uber it’s easy to track down who did it, so the driver would have to be an idiot to do it.

          • And not all cab drivers refuse to pick up passengers going to Eastern Market. But a lot of them do.

          • Anon above, can you site any figures to back up what you’re saying? I am genuinely curious as I have not heard that “it’s pretty common” before.

          • The use of “pretty common” and “notorious” is what had me think this was a ploy in the first place. Please correct me if I am wrong.

          • justinbc

            Didn’t an Uber driver do this as well? I didn’t follow the case to find out if he was found guilty, but I’m pretty sure he was at least charged.

          • Yep. That’s the great thing about Uber– you have the identifying information to make an arrest, which makes it less likely to happen in the first place.

          • Wait, why do we “have to admit it’s pretty common”? One story is enough to terrify me, but I think you should cite some report or something before getting everyone worked up.

    • That escalated quickly.

  • I would like to see if there is a way to follow up to ensure the driver was penalized. Was your friend able to take down the necessary identifying information? It always frustrates me that drivers have their info on the passenger-side drop-down shade or whatever that’s called where it’s almost impossible to see from the back seat.

    It hasn’t happened to me in a while but I too have been refused service to Capitol Hill (once from three taxis the same night in Adams Morgan), even though I live six blocks from Union Station and just off of Massachusetts. It’s not like I’m out in Hill East or something where it’s primarily residential and they won’t be able to pick up someone after dropping me off (not that people going to Hill East should be denied service). If I were your friend, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of the cab, at least not that quickly. I’ve had to do this and they eventually acquiesce. If anything, I’d have my phone out with 911 dialed as a warning to the cabby if he tried anything.

    • I think it’s best to have your phone out and be clearly taking down the driver’s information the minute you get in the cab. That way he knows you have his info and he shouldn’t try to do anything illegal.

      • But also make sure you hold onto your phone if you do that. Don’t let him take it or lose it in the scuffle if a fight ensues.

    • Unfortunately my friend did not take the information down. I do think this is clearly the most important thing to do in the moment.

  • Can someone please explain to me why a can would not want to go to Eastern Market? I’m totally confused on that…

  • In the past year or so before I moved from DC, I completely stopped using DC taxicabs. I was sick of nearly missed flights when drivers never showed up or drivers who showed up 20 minutes before I asked them to arrive (and of course they’d call and tell me to come down now) and drivers who’d refuse my fare when I told them where I was going. Uber was reliable, not stressful, and never failed me except for one time when a driver couldn’t get me to DCA during the inauguration roadblocks and I had to get out at a metro stop to make my flight. I was admittedly a bit annoyed that they didn’t know their way around the roadblocks and we spent a bunch of time going in circles, but since it was an exceptional day, I didn’t email a complaint or anything.

  • I’ve been refused cab service, too. In both DC and NYC. Here, I was watching March madness on a week night and missed the last Metro. I was around Metro Center trying to get a cab home to Van Ness. A cab driver stopped and asked where I was going, and when I told him, he said no deal and drove off! I learned a lesson and waited until I was seated in the next cab before revealing my destination. When I told that cab driver what has just happened, he informed me of the hefty fines and guessed that the driver who rejected me wanted to drive in circles among various downtown hotels and bars or get an airport fare where he could make more money. In NYC it happened to me around “shift change” when I wasn’t headed in the same direction as the driver’s home. Definitely frustrating!

    • I’ve had the same problem in NYC before. Super annoying. It was around 5 or 6 pm, I was downtown and needed to get to midtown to make a dinner reservation. After 4 cabs refused my fare, I jumped on the subway and was a tad late. One of the drivers told me it was because of the shift change. I had never heard of this prior.

  • I’m literally planning to call 911 (since there is no more 311, correct?) next time this happens to me. It is my tendency to sympathize with cab drivers, since it can’t be that great a livelihood, but I just can’t deal with being refused rides anymore.

    What do people think about that? Anyone ever tried it?

    • Wasn’t there a Dear PoPville about that once? A woman called the police because the cab driver had done something illegal (tried to rape her I think?) and the police were dismissive of it.

    • Of course there’s still a 311. But all calls police-related should go to 911, non-emergency or emergency. And this is definitely a police situation (or DCTC if it’s business hours, 202.645.6018)

    • “It is my tendency to sympathize with cab drivers, since it can’t be that great a livelihood.”

      Don’t. I know a former cab driver who owns two houses here, and a mansion in his home country, and is supporting his family of 12, and also has a couple of vans to haul them all around, on his income. Makes me think I need to quit my day job. 😉 Now he works for Uber, as do most of the good ones.

  • I wonder if Mr. T refused to drive people to Eastern Market?

  • I don’t mind being refused rides. What I do mind is when cabbies a) don’t know where they are going, and b) try to run up the meter.

  • Ok, voting with your feet absolutely sends a message and is practical, but it still doesn’t address the injustice of the initial offense. Absolutely you should complain, even if just to be on record complaining! Meanwhile, though, there’s a problem with the DCTC response: how often have any of you gotten in a cab where the information on the cab and the driver is actually visible?? It’s always on the passenger-side visor…which is almost always flipped up. And even when it’s not, it’s generally hard to read from a distance – faded writing, low light… And that’s also a violation. And one that makes the other violation even easier!

  • I used to live in Eastern Market and had this problem numerous times. Some nights I would struggle for 30 minutes trying to find a cab. If only DC could be like NYC when it comes to cabs.

  • So add that to the Popville wish list of things from NYC (I believe the list also includes crime fighting/police tactics, population density, pizza, and bagels).

  • Have you ever tried to get a ride from U Street on a weekend night from Uber? It’s ridiculous, not one would take me to Brightwood. And they don’t have to. Uber is not regulated, and does not have to accept riders going to anywhere they don’t want to go. Uber can be great, but it is not the solution.

    • You mean you got into an Uber car, told them where you wanted to go and they said no? Solution: give the driver a bad rating and include a comment.

    • That’s definitely not true. Uber clearly states that once you book your ride, the driver will take you wherever you want to go. I’m sure a driver would be dropped if you called the and reported this. Plus, they know exactly who refused you since the driver’s info is captured at the time of booking.

    • Uber is regulated, under the sedan regulations. I’m pretty sure refusal to haul is illegal. It’s also against Uber’s terms of service, and reporting the drivers to Uber will probably get you some results.

  • I’d love to know how much business/money taxi cabs have lost since Uber came into town. I love Uber..and use it all the time. Even when I land at DCA…I refuse to give taxi’s my business. No more racicism, no more dirty cab, no more credit card bullshit, no more teachers dirty looks. DC cabbies are like the GOP. Always trying to deny the present and the future. Asshats.

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