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“Does anyone know the protocol in this situation? I just would like to know my passenger rights.”

by Prince Of Petworth February 3, 2016 at 12:10 pm 44 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Clif Burns

“Dear PoPville,

I was on a very delayed flight into DCA on Sunday evening (Monday morning). By the time everyone on the plane had retrieved luggage, it was around 2:15 am and everyone on the plane needed a cab. When my turn came, I offered to share with the woman behind me as I was going to Columbia Heights and she was going to Shaw, so it wasn’t terribly out of the way to drop her off first. The total on the meter at that point was $17 and I was going to make some change for her, because the ride from Shaw to Columbia Heights is shorter but at that point the driver said we both had to pay $20, because “that’s how it’s done” from DCA. Is this correct? I would have had to pay $20 had I been on my own because that’s generally the cost to Columbia Heights from DCA, but it seems like if I had been with a friend then it would have been two separate metered fares rather than both of us handing over $20 off-meter. Does anyone know the protocol in this situation? I just would like to know my passenger rights.

*Meant to add there was a cab shortage and the cab guys at DCA were asking people to share.”

  • anonymous

    i googled “DC taxi cab rates DCA”


    answer, no. the rates are also posted on every taxi cab window on the back seat, although its usually hard to read the text backwards while inside the cab.

  • ExWalbridgeGuy

    You used to always have to share cabs out of Union Station when you got in late… the official rule was they were supposed to reset the meter when each passenger got out, not charge you both full fare, but the cabbies often broke the rule because, well, what other choice did you have? Then Uber came around…

  • taxing

    It’s my understanding that if you have multiple stops in a cab, the cabbie re-starts the meter after each stop. So here, the $17 should have been paid at the first stop and the meter restarted for your journey from Shaw to CoHi. Unless there is a DCA specific rule (there might be), it sounds like the cabbie was trying to rip you off. Generally, the multiple stop rule is just another reason I use Uber/Lyft – I’ve never had a driver say they couldn’t do multiple stops.

  • Jwetz

    Nope. There is an extra passenger fee of $1 and that’s it. I’ve had too many taxi drivers try and take what they can get away with. Punching extra random fees into the meter, trying to charge me for my bag that I carried into the backseat with me. I flew back to DC on Monday after the blizzard and asked the stand attendant if the Snow Emergency surcharge was in effect for DC, he told me it would depend on the driver.

    There is a reason that Uber is eating them up., though as the service quality of uberX continues to fall it may come time to reconsider.

    For your knowledge, DCA has a published flyer on costs approved by the local jurisdictions.


    • AG

      I once had a cab try to charge me double the additional passenger charge (back when it was per extra passenger) cuz he picked us up at a hotel (I was meeting my mom and my grandmother) and assumed we were tourists. He tried to play dumb, but no, you don’t punch that button four times by accident. He got no tip.

    • I Dont Get It

      Is the stand attendant an employee of the airport? He should be reported for providing such cab friendly/passenger unfriendly false info.

      • Jo

        I don’t think he provided false information, although the answer could have been clearer. The answer was “yes, the snow emergency is still in effect.” All cab drivers therefore were entitled to charge the fee. However, some are nice and do not do so.

      • OP here

        It was the cabbie who said we each owed $20, the stand attendants were just putting us in cabs and handing out the piece of paper.

  • Publix Carrot Cake

    Please tell me that you did not pay. These guys get so mad about being pushed out by Uber and Lyft, but pull these games on their customers. You would be surprised how quickly they will fold when you refuse and call their bluff on calling the police.

    • SaraEP

      +1 – you’re right about calling BS on cabs and them folding.
      p.s. I love publix carrot cake yum

    • sproc

      One suggestion for the future: If I’m at DCA and need to cab it home, I will generally do whatever I can to get an Arlington cab over a DC cab. It’s generally luck of the draw how they’re lined up in the waiting lanes, but I’ve even let folks go ahead of me in line if it looks like an Arlington cab is next. Without exception, they are so much cleaner, better maintained, the CC machine always works, and I have never had an Arlington driver pull DC-style shenanigans on me.

      • sproc

        Oops–meant to start a new thread not reply, but the comment still stands.

      • anon

        Yeah, but it’s kind of a dick move the that Arlington cab. Arlington cabs can’t pick up passengers who flag them down on DC’s streets, so you’ve just screwed the guy out of a return fair.

      • louc

        I fervently disagree, I followed that conventional wisdom once and reserved a Red Top cab to take me to DCA at 4 a.m. They stood me up and it was a DC cab to the rescue. I’ve also had to wait 40 minutes for an Arlington cab to come pick me up and take me back to the district. And so on.

        • kserasera

          Red Top is the WORST – the last time I tried using them to get to the airport for a business trip (wanted to book in advance) – I booked the cab for the following morning…. an hour later the cab arrives and the cab driver gives me attitude when I tell him I didn’t order a cab for that evening. I call back to confirm my reservation for the morning still exists (it doesn’t) and remake that reservation – which I book for an hour later because my flight got delayed. The next morning the cab arrives at the time of the ORIGINAL reservation (which they said they deleted!) waking me up. Such a disaster – called customer service, tweeted about it, never got an apology or anything. I use EnviroCab in Arlington now if I absolutely need to call a cab.

        • JoDa

          If you need a cab at odd hours in the District, Yellow Cab is the only one you can rely on to show up and not screw it up. I used to need a cab to National at 4:30 AM on the regular (this was even before Uber/Lyft/etc.), and I learned my lesson right quick after 3 near-disasters, using other DC and VA cab companies (I used to believe the hype that VA companies were more reliable…that was NOT the case). They were so reliable that, when I needed to go to National at 6 AM recently, I went ahead and skipped Uber/Lyft/Etc. and just booked with them the night before. It cost me a couple bucks more, but when I walked out my door at 5:57, the driver was waiting (he had already called at 5:55 and said he was on his way, ETA 2 minutes, and he would start the 5-minute waiting grace at 6 on the nose since that is when I had requested he show), helped me with my bag from inside my front gate, and took the actual fastest route to DCA, not the traffic-heavy route GPS would have given him (I started to give him directions, and he just said “X to Y to Z…is that what you were planning?” Me: “Yes, thank you…GPS would send you A to B to C, and that would be a nightmare.” Him: “I got you…been on these roads for 30 years now.”)

      • kserasera

        Arlington cabs aren’t much better – I routinely get attitude about using a credit card (to which I shrug and tell them it’s a corporate card so it’s the only way I can pay for the cab).

  • AG

    Did you get the cab’s license or other identifying information? I’ve never heard of a set fee from DCA. I know that now if you split a fare they have to do it as two separate fares v. just charging at the end.

  • OP here

    Thanks for all the comments. Unfortunately I did hand over the $20 because I was exhausted and did not want to argue, but I also took down the cab company and licence plate number. Just sent a complaint to the commission.

    • I Dont Get It

      At 2:15 am I probably would have done the same thing. I’m glad you recorded the cab info and reported it.

    • C_petworth

      Good Luck! I have been screwed over by so many DC cabs. I hope you get your money back.

  • I Dont Get It

    I hope you at least left the cab door open as you exited. I’ve had few issues with cabbies but the two times it escalated in an argument i left the cab without shutting the door. That really pisses them off so be prepared to deal with it or be close to your front door!

  • anon

    Others are right – the cab driver is supposed to reset the meter after the first stop. In my experience, however, that’s not usually what they do, and it’s easier to just pay them than wait for the cops to show up, as has happened when I’ve argued before.

  • zeeeeee

    I can’t recall if there is anything posted about shared riding on the inside of a cab, or even if it is required to be. It should be. The airport cab stand attendants should also be informing people of the rules especially if they are encouraging sharing.
    If you don’t have the cab number, there’s probably not much you can do.
    Thanks for sharing, hopefully this will help others avoid this situation.

  • Formerly ParkViewRes

    This happened to me once YEARS ago! The cabbie refused to reset the fare and we were arguing with him. In this case I knew the people in the cab because we had traveled together so we refused and got out of the cab at my friend’s place!

    • Duponter

      This is actually what you should have done, although at 2:15am I know why you didn’t. If you had just left the cab in CoHi, you would have paid $20 once, then could have grabbed another to Shaw and saved probably $12 total.

      But like I said, no one would blame you for just getting it done to get home at that hour. And who wants to try to get a cab at 2am in CoHi?

  • Chris

    They try and pull this sh*t all the time for late pickups at Union Station. (Which was basically a lawless third world country after midnight).

    Total scam, and illegal but it sucks when it’s late at night and your dealing with a irate cabbie without a lot of other people around.

    Thank god for Uber, F DC cabs!

  • AnonAgain

    Is this the same for Washington Flyer from Dulles? If so, I was totally ripped off for ~$60 a few years ago

  • Duponter

    Can you pick up an Uber at DCA? I thought for a while they could not pick up there, just drop off? Has that changed? If not, well, that probably explains why these crooks try to cheat you. No competition.

    • Palisades

      Yes you can. There’s a $4 automatic surcharge applied because it’s an airport trip. And they’re usually 5 minutes or more away. They can’t wait at the pickup area. The airport seems to be the last place on earth that a cab makes sense.

      • sproc

        I’ve tried it a couple of times now with Uber and they’re usually pretty quick. I think several tend to hang out in the cell phone lot, or else they just finished drop offs and can easily circle back around.

        • JoDa

          They do wait in the cell phone lot. I’ve used it twice in the last couple of months, and saw that they accepted the fare in the cell phone lot. They do tack on the mandatory airport charge, but it’s still a good option if possible. Late it might be trickier. There is a disclaimer on the screen that it might take them a few minutes to get to you since they have to circle twice to get to arrivals if they’re in the cell phone lot. Also, in both cases, the driver called me and asked where, exactly, I was, and for a way to identify me, so pickup was pretty easy (FE, “I’m at the first ‘C/American’ sign, in a tan coat with a red shoulder bag”).

      • AnonUberDriver

        Cabs also tack on a $3 surcharge for an airport pickup (MWAA rule) + double the rates of Uber/Lyft.

    • SweetBabyRae

      Palisdes is right that you can get an Uber/Lyft there, but the last three times I’ve tried to get a one from DCA I had three drivers call me to ask me my destination (I had already put it into the app) and then cancel my ride when they decided they weren’t going to make enough cash on the ride. Ridiculous.

      • kserasera

        They can’t see the destination until they accept the ride and pick you up – presumably that’s so what happened to you doesn’t happen.

    • OP here

      Yeah, I and the whole line of people from the plane did try to get ubers, but there were none. The surge actually went up to 2.6x. Cabs were coming in quicker than ubers by that point.

      • JoDa

        Right…I do often opt for the cab line because of this exact situation (busy, late, ends up being the best option). FWIW, others are right. Cab sharing in DC is only officially regulated from Union Station (and that regulation is weakly enforced). In all other cases, they should end the trip at the first stop, request payment of the amount on the meter, and restart the meter for the rest of the trip. You and the other passenger can work out the split at that point. They should not kick you out (that’s illegal). If they’re willing to keep the meter running and accept payment at the end of the total trip, that should be stated up front (not illegal, but they’re not required to do that…though, despite my earlier rant about VA cabs, they *do* seem to be a little more willing to do that…we’ve come home from some happy hours and asked before getting in if they’re willing to do multiple stops on one meter run, and VA cabs are about 75% more likely to say “yes” to that request). $20 each was the cabbie scamming you. You should absolutely file a complaint.

        • JoDa

          Those happy hours were in VA, of course. I have had some DC cab drivers get snippy with me when a nearby friend hops out at a light few blocks from my house (we drove right by their place), since they could have made more if we requested multiple stops. I just play stupid in those cases: “well, they said they’d walk from my house, but theirs is right there, so I don’t blame them for getting out!”

  • mellodcd

    This sounds familiar! I was willing to pay the usual price even with being crammed into a cab with 2 other random people, because it was late. Luckily, I was the first stop, but the guy tried to scam us for $20 each in cash. I told him that’s not how DC cabs work and that I was going to report him. Realizing we weren’t tourists, he quickly changed his tune, but he still had no way to charge us since he didn’t turn on the meter. It was a free cab for me, but I probably should have still reported him.

  • ee.dc.resident

    I encountered a new taxi scam this week. The tip buttons on the credit card transaction were set to calculate way higher than they were labeled. I hit 20% (the lowest programmed option available) and it interpreted that as a $4 tip on a $14 fare. So watch your confirmation screen. And if you’re drunk or bad at math or something, just use the “other” button and put in the percentage yourself.

  • C_petworth

    Never pay anything that not on the meter!

  • Euclid

    Sounds like an unregistered cab, it’s $20 for everyone into the city, and not legal. Just walk up the escalator to the arrivals area and call an Uber, so much easier.

    • Euclid

      Sorry, i meant departures.

    • textdoc

      As the OP noted in a subsequent comment: “Yeah, I and the whole line of people from the plane did try to get ubers, but there were none. The surge actually went up to 2.6x. Cabs were coming in quicker than ubers by that point.”


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