Taxi Cab Troubles Vol. 12

Photo by PoPville flickr user Gerda De Corte

“Dear PoPville,

On Saturday night my daughter was over at my home in Petworth, and at 10pm she decided to go back to her place near Foggy Bottom. We tried to get at Uber but there was surge pricing and long wait because of the rain. Instead, I drove her to the Fort Totten metro station because there is always a line of cabs there. I asked the first driver in line to take her to Foggy Bottom and he refused because he said it was too far and he would never get a fare back. Then I went to the next driver, who refused, and so on for five more cabs. Two other guys were also turned down by the same drivers because of their destination.

I ended up driving her to Union Station where she caught a cab. But I was really angry. Is that legal to turn down a trip within the city?”

81 Comment

  • Cabbies have done this to me a lot, too. It’s ridiculous. Not to mention – can’t find a fare back (which, subquestion, why do they need to literally come back) from Foggy Bottom on a Saturday night? There are bars there, and even more a few blocks away around Dupont.
    And yet the cab companies wonder why so many people Uber instead.

    • Has anyone else noticed the irregular use of DC cabs’ “for hire” light?
      Everywhere else in the world, the light being on (i.e., the more visible state) means “for hire… wave me down and get in.”
      In DC, the light means “I am an idiot cab driver who has no idea what this light is for.” Cabs stop with no light on, cabs have passengers inside with the light on. WTF guys.

      • Yes! This makes me crazy.

      • This has been going on for the 35 years I’ve lived here. To say the least, Uber was a godsend.

      • I don’t understand why they added an electronic display thing for the top of cabs… that displays text whether the cab is available or not. You’re not going to be able to tell whether the text says “TAXI ON CALL” or “TAXI FOR HIRE” until the taxi is pretty close… mostly negating the usefulness of the electronic display.

      • It’s infuriating.

  • Legally the cabs are obligated to take you to your destination once inside. Just shitty when they don’t let you in, but I tend to force my way into a cab before I tell a cabbie my destination. If they deny your trip after that, you can certainly report them.

    • I don’t believe there is any requirement that you be in their cab first. They can’t deny service based on destination, period.

      • Exactly. This is why I NEVER tell a cabbie where I’m going before I get in the car. And then if they give me crap about not taking me to my destination, I threaten to call the police. Usually gets the point across.

    • justinbc

      +1, I just get in the car and tell them where I want to go.

    • Coaxing/tricking the cabbie to go to an undesirable location is standard practice in DC and NY. They should end this silly obligation, or at least let taxis charge double for out of the way destinations. I like the idea of a regulated cab industry with appropriate insurance. We just do it so poorly.

      • If you get licensed by the city to have exclusive right to run a cab, then you have obligation to serve the whole city, not be able to gouge certain populations or discriminate for whatever reason you want.

        Why do you want ten to do away with this rule?

      • that’s one of the regulations we actually do well. i can’t see any reason to oppose it. unless you’re a cab driver…

    • +1. I will mumble, stutter, and stall so that I can avoid telling them my destination until we’re already rolling. Or sometimes I just say something vague like “head up Wisconsin Ave” – without telling them that my destination is at the other end of Wisconsin. Rules are rules and they’re supposed to take you either way – but why take a chance that they don’t follow rules?

    “The driver is prohibited from denying service based on the destination. ”

    DC cabs are terrible. I have no sympathy for them if Uber and Lyft put them out of business. I have rarely had a positive experience in a DC cab.

  • With all the driving (two different metros), why didn’t the OP just take her home to foggy bottom?

  • At that point, I’d have just driven her to Foggy Bottom.

  • No, it’s not legal, but cabbies do this aaallll the time. It’s one of the reasons why I am devoted to Uber. You can make a complaint of discrimination (based on destination) on the DC Taxicab Commission website. The website says that any complaint must include: “all of the details concerning the incident and include the minimum of the name of the operator, vehicle license tag and date and time of the incident.” I’ve never gotten the name of the operator when I’ve had a problem, but will keep it in mind for the future.

  • Never, ever tell cabbies where you are going before you get in. That’s the first rule of taking a DC cab, right?

    • Always do, but I’ve had a few tell me “they can’t.”

      • I once was in the cab and they told me they can’t. He told me to get out – got into a “loud discussion” – i refused to get out – we both called the police. He ended up with a $300 ticket and I got another cab. But you obviously can’t be in a rush for this strategy :).

    • Blithe

      Well, yes — and no. The last thing that I want to experience — again — is being locked in the back of a car, driven by a stranger who’s pissed off at me. So while you’re right about the usefulness of the strategy, I’ve had that play out in ways that I would not want to repeat.

    • justinbc

      After years of reading PoPville stories I’m pretty sure the first rule for successfully getting a cab in DC is to be white.

      • I’ve had more than one cab driver tell me (almost proudly) that he refuses to pick up black passengers or go to NE/SE. And those were some of my better DC taxi experiences…

      • you win because you speak truth.

      • Nope. White (looking) woman here who’s been denied a ride to close-in Capitol Hill more times than I can count. A cabbie once told me to get out of the cab on a freezing NYE after I had already been waiting for 30+ mins for a cab, because he thought I was with a group and not by myself (this is back when they had a surcharge per passenger). Sorry, dude, I’m not going to get out of your taxi and hang out on a Mt. Vernon street corner by myself at 2am, because you’ve had a rough December. I just stayed in the car and told him I knew my rights (and was reading them off of his seat back). I would have tipped well considering I was so grateful to finally get a cab after waiting so long, but I ended up just giving the standard, it was NYE after all.

        • C’mon. You know he wasn’t literally saying you’ll get a cab with no issues every time if you are white. Your “special occasion” story is an every day story for a lot of people of color.

        • White female here too, and I have also had my occasional issues with cabs denying picking me up or taking me where I want to go, BUT there is no denying cab actively avoid picking up non-white people much, much more frequently. I’ve seen it first hand many times.

      • Wrong, my fiancé has been denied taxi rides many many times and she is white. Quit bringing race into everything please!

        • HaileUnlikely

          I think it would be fair to say that it is often seemingly necessary but is not always sufficient.

          • Exactly. Being white doesn’t guarantee you a taxi ride, but it gives you a much better chance of getting one.
            It’s pretty well-established that in D.C., black people have a much more difficult time than white people in getting cabs to stop for them.

          • It’s pretty well established everywhere in US

      • +1, on more than one occasion my non-white friends have asked me to hail a cab for them because otherwise they couldn’t get a cab in DC.

  • Taxis suck, metro sucks, uber sucks. It’s no wonder I try my best to stay within a mile of my house.

  • Reasoning is so bizarre. can’t get a return fare from Foggy Bottom? Man, he must strictly shuttle between Chinatown and Adams Morgan.

    • I want to know why there’s always a line of cabs at the Fort Totten metro, particularly cabs who won’t take people downtown. Is there that big a market for people who want to go to College Park or Greenbelt but don’t want to wait 15 minutes for the next green line train?

  • I’m confused as to why she just didn’t metro home once you were at Fort Totten? Even easier she could have done this directly from Petworth Metro.

    • Because her father wanted to be nice and get his daughter a cab. Or because she lives in Foggy Bottom but no where near the metro. Or because he lives in Petworth but not within safe walking distance to a metro at 10pm. Or because she and her father got so fed up with the taxis that they were on a mission to find one that would take her. Or because she has some physical aliment that makes walking distances hard. Or for any reason they wanted.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Basically agreed but doesn’t matter, cabbie’s refusal was illegal.

  • That picture is making me hungry for Pasta Mia.

  • “Is [it] legal to turn down a trip within the city?” No, it isn’t. This must be one of the most frequently violated taxicab regulations.

    • justinbc

      What’s the deal with the supposedly mandatory red and grey cab colors btw? I thought this was supposed to go into effect quite a while back, but it seems like only 1/3 to 1/2 of the ones I see have been painted.

      • I think it was supposed to get phased in gradually. It does seem to be a longer phasing-in period than I thought it was going to be.

      • I heard that they were only required to use the new colors if/when they have to re-paint the cab.

  • OP here. It was pouring rain, and I had other people at my house. Also, it is much easier to drive down North Capitol than cut across town. Much faster. And there were some power outages near me and I wanted to get back.

    Oh, and my roof was leaking. Roofer comes tomorrow!

    Yeah, maybe I should have just driven, but at the time having her take a cab seemed like a good idea.

    • Blithe

      Thanks for the follow up — which has nicely assuaged my curiosity. I hope the roof repairs go well!

      • I used Sidecar once. I had no issues with it. They’re like Uber and Lyft but with no surge charges ever.

  • LifeHack: Whenever a cabbie asks you where you’re going before they let you into the cab the answer is always [DuPont / Barracks Row / Other Busy Location Neither Too Close nor Too Far Away].

    Once inside you say, “Oh, by DuPont, I really meant Crystal City” and if they object your phone is already in your hand taking a photo of their hack license and dialing the police. You’ll get very cranky service, but by god you’ll get service.

    • this exactly

    • Nice. If I got attitude, I’d make a point of pulling out a card, too, no matter how much cash I had on hand.

    • +1000. My parents live in Bethesda (and not even down town Bethesda…like 2 miles north) and when I’d need a cab from DuPont I would always say something like “toward Friendship Heights” and then as we gradually approached “keep going–Bethesda” and then “just up the road off this street”. I’d love to be honest with them, but if Uber isn’t available there’s often no way of not being stranded when it comes to diva cabbies. If they’re nice about it, I always give a solid tip. The other thing that gets me is when the credit card machine “isn’t working” all the damn time. Rather than offering up cash if I have it, I just sorta go “oh, really? hmmm…” and ask if they know where an atm they could take me to would be…that miraculously “fixes” the credit card machine 98% of the time.

  • Ugh, story of my life. Try getting a cab to Deanwood EOTR. Sorry DC cabs like to regulatory break the law.

  • I am missing something. Why did you drive her to two metro stations, yet she couldn’t take metro? All that driving, you could have spent less time in your car just driving her back to Foggy bottom.

    A little weird.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Were you around on Saturday night? The storm was pretty insane. There was a tornado warning. I briefly lost power. Unless the OP lives on top of the Petworth Metro and daughter lives on top of the Foggy Bottom metro, I wouldn’t question it. Also, OP had a question here: Was the cabbie’s behavior legal. The answer is “no.”

    • Every metro line was running a train every 20 minutes for reconstruction and add in the fact that she’d have to transfer as well and you’d be taking metro all night.

    • He said why above…roof leak, power outage, etc.

  • one question – OP said uber was doing surge pricing at that point. but that doesn’t affect cabs hailed via uber. cab rates are cab rates. so were there no cabs available through uber?

  • Yes, cabs suck especially when you are stranded somewhere but this OP is ridiculous – your DAUGHTER needed a ride and you couldn’t give her one 20 minutes away? WTF? I’m from the DMV too and my mom doesn’t like to drive at night but if she needed too, she would drop me off in front of my house. Such b.s.

    How are you gonna drive your daughter to TWO metro stations at night? Just suck it up and take her home. In the time spent trying to drop her off, you could have taken her home and gotten back to your place. There are other people that need cabs too. Suck.It.Up. Take her home yourself.

    I don’t care if that’s rude but UGH privileged a** mofo’s in here…

    • Wow. OP again. Regardless of the reasons I want a cab, can a driver refuse? And what ‘s with all the cabs at Fort Totten?

      What’s kind of hilarious is that the posters are upset that 1) I didn’t make her take the metro, and 2) that I didn’t drive her myself. It’s ten minutes down North Cap. It’s at least 20 or more to Foggy Bottom.

    • Wow, lac. What an unnecessarily rude response. And “There are other people that need cabs too”? As though there were some kind of shortage of cabs and people should selflessly avoid taking them if they have the choice??

  • When I lived in VA, anytime a cabbie asked me where I was going before I got in, I said dupont. Once I was in the car, I told him where I was actually going. A few times I had to engage a contest of wills before he started driving, but I always won. And on the way out of the cab, I always made sure to let them know why I wasn’t tipping them.

    One of life’s small pleasures that I no longer have, thanks to uber.

  • You guys should check out Split. We are a local DC startup that offers convenient, sustainable, and affordable shared rides. And no surge pricing. Ever. It’s half the price of other on-demand options. Download our app for three free rides.


Comments are closed.