New meters proposed for D.C. taxis

If a proposal being considered by the D.C. Taxicab Commission passes, GW students will pay for cab rides by the mile and minute rather than zones.

Under the current system, a customer is charged a fare based on the number of zones that the trip travels through. The proposed meter system would charge a fare based on the distance and time of the trip.

Maryland and Virginia taxis already use a metered system. A trip from D.C. into Virginia based on zones could be a different fare than a trip from Virginia into D.C. based on meters, taxicab drivers said. The proposal would standardize all taxis in the region, making them all run on meters.

“We would try to set up a system consistent with surrounding jurisdictions, which is of course better for the customer but is not always better for the driver because it is less money,” Kimberly Lewis, attorney adviser for the commission said.

Lewis said that a change to meters would require approval by the D.C. City Council and would include at least a 60-day period for public comments.

According to the proposal, the zone system is difficult for customers to figure out and a meter system would be more straightforward.

A Merrit Cab Company driver who asked to be identified as “Raj” said there would be no difference in the amount of money he would make with either a zone or a meter system.

“The problem with the meter is that this is a small city with many routes from point A to point B. With the meter you are required to take the shortest (geographic) route, which may not be the fastest,” he said. “People will ask, ‘Why didn’t you take a different route and avoid traffic,” he said. “But with a meter, I am required by law to take one route.”

Driver Yared Mengesha said the zone system was cheaper for most customers. “If you go to Southeast, to a low income neighborhood, (from Union Station) by zone it is $10.30. If you go by meter, it is too much.”

“I’ve been driving for 30 years, and there are no problems with the zone,” Raj said.

Students had mixed opinions.

“I think the zone system is simply grand because you always know what you’re going to pay beforehand, so you can establish a friendly relationship with the driver without having to worry about paying (too much),” freshman Ian Thomson said.

Another student disagreed.

“Drivers are still going to rip us off. That’s their job. I’m sure a meter system is still going to end up costing more,” freshman Mahi Sadeghi said.

Other students think a change to meters would be beneficial to students.

“The meter is good. There is less opportunity for the cab driver to rip you off,” sophomore Adam Tanker said. “Most of the time kids take a cab when they are wasted and don’t really know what’s going on . with a meter you can see, you can make sure that you pay what you deserve.”

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