Saturday, February 17, 2007

I long for metered cabs.

Okay, here's one thing that I really hate about DC. It was never an issue before because I didn't really take cabs. But sometimes now I do, and I hate, but seriously completely hate, the system they have for fares. They don't do meters like normal people. Instead they have zones. Which means that if you know the zones and don't mind walking a few blocks, you can save a few dollars by telling the cab to stop just before the border of a zone. But it also means that if you don't know where the zones are, you could go five feet too far and end up paying more.

But my real problem with the zones is that they aren't clear. The standard zone map posted in all taxis doesn't show where the zone borders are relative to all other streets, so unless you have an intricate knowledge of DC's street grid and/or only travel to places you know very well, it's impossible to know how many zones you'll be traveling in or how much the ride will cost. And it's therefore really easy for a cab driver to cheat you. I had a taxi driver once try to charge me $17.95 for a two-zone ride that should have cost $8.80. Proponents of the system claim that it's better than a meter system because it's very exact, but that only applies if you know exactly how many zones you're traveling in and are prepared to argue with your driver about it.

I like metered cabs. I want a system of metered cabs. The only non-metered cab system I've ever liked was the one in Dakar, and that's because it was in Dakar and therefore foreign and fun. And I liked bargaining with cab drivers and pretending to walk away when they wouldn't give me my price until they caved in and allowed it. And I especially liked that the most one ever paid for a cab, even if going all the way across town (which usually involved driving down several alleys that were really just glorified sand pits) was 1000 CFA, the equivalent of $2. So unless DC is going to start giving me the option of arguing cab drivers down to $2 for a ride across town, they need to switch to a metered system double-quick.

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