A couple of weeks ago, I needed to get to work earlier than usual. We only have one car, which usually always works for us, except this time. I needed to take a taxi to work. So the evening before, I scheduled a taxi from DC Yellow Cab (which is based in Ward 5 near Bladensburg and New York Ave). After waiting for some time past my pick up time with no taxi in sight, I had to run to RIA and catch the bus to the Metro (nothing wrong with this option but I needed to go somewhere that no metro train could take me). I was so very disappointed in the failure of the taxi service that day. This reminded me of my partner and I’s Holiday Party at my house last year, where my intoxicated guests called for taxis that never came (luckily a sober driver took them closer into the City so they could hail a taxi). Again, another failure.
These are just some of my stories on how the DC taxi system fails to acknowledge outlying residents. There are so many other stories from other residents in Brookland, Woodridge, and elsewhere that is equally depressing and aggravating. From trying to get to work to needing to go to the airport to catch a flight. All instances: DC taxi failure.
Part of me wants to believe that it is because taxi drivers see it as a dead-fare zone, as with most residential areas. That is probably true for those that take passengers from downtown to the outerlying areas…unless you consider that if people knew that they could go to RIA and catch a taxi, they would and it would create a return fare for those taxi drivers. But what about when taxi’s are requested via the phone or internet? Recently, I had an opportunity to ask a taxi driver this question as I rode from downtown to my house (he was not pleased about my destination after I told him). I was told by this very frank taxi driver that “only the brave drivers go there” when called. So we are ignored because our area is viewed as dangerous?
To quote Fran Lebowitz (while substituting out “Texas”): “Calling a taxi in Ward 5 is like calling a rabbi in Iraq”.
The new taxi regulations, as proposed, is a great step forward for DC. Among other things, it will create a standard color for the taxis, force them to make their top lights work properly, and require real-time reporting. One other point buried deep down in the regulations which pertains to all of us in the underserved areas is this:
“(P) Incentivize taxicab service in geographically underserved areas of the District, which may include the placement of taxicab and limousine stand locations in geographically underserved areas within the District, as established through rulemaking;”
I recently asked Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh what would the incentives be? I will update this blog when I get answers. I think they should also have a better way to monitor the call vs. pick up rates and a better feedback mechanism for riders (or want-to-be riders) to report poor service or lack of. Currently, the feedback system seems antiquated and onerous. Taxi companies should be fined or penalized in some way for failing to respond to calls for service without a legitimate reason.
This issue does matter to our redevelopment efforts along RIA NE. One of the biggest questions we have to answer for more and more good redevelopment is how are we going to bring people to the “Main Street” sections of the Avenue? Bus is certainly one way but patrons need to feel confident that they have ways to get to this area and ways to get home other than the single bus option. What about current residents who want to go grocery shopping and have too much to take on the bus? Transportation options need to be available for RIA in order for it to be successful. We cannot be ignored by the taxicab system.
We can all applaud the efforts of the DC Government in moving our taxicab system further into the present century but as nearly every resident in the Brookland/Woodridge area knows, we have a lot further to go.