Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Open Letter to Taxi Drivers

Listen, we don't want the zones. We want meters. If we JUST got rid of the zones, I think most DC residents would be happy. But we also realize that there is a strong need for a fair and equitable way to charge passengers for a service and compensate drivers for effort and time. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. Most other major cities use the time/distance meter. Its not rocket science! Cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago all have millions of residents who are OK with metered taxis. We can just copy off of their papers. Cheating is allowed in managing municipal agencies. Its called best practices.

Forget the pleas of some taxi drivers about how much money they'll lose because of meters. When the debate began last year, many drivers complained that customers would pay MORE under meters. So we'd pay more and they'd make less? Come on taxi drivers.

Mayor Fenty originally set the date of April 6, 2008 for all taxis in the District to have operating time/distance meters. Recently, he pushed that date back to May 1st to give drivers a chance to install equipment; and apparently to try and derail the process through multiple day long strikes and an on-line petition. I support workers all over the city, especially those in the service industry. However, unfortunately for taxi drivers, its a regulated business. There are reasons why some industries are regulated and the reasons behind regulating cabs, taxis and limos are obvious. We were just long overdue in revising some of our regulations. Its up to the Mayor to make sure we stick to the decision made last fall; banish the zone system, bring on the meters.

The zone system was old, open to fraud and just plain unfair, even if applied lawfully. Remember when Metro got rid of cashiers at parking decks? It was an unpopular idea to lay off workers, but ended up saving Metro and all of its customers millions of dollars because SmarTrip card readers don't steal. The city is making a similar correction. Some short term pain is a necessity in order to fix this crucial transportation option for the long run. Get on board drivers, get on board.