July 7, 2010

MD and VA vs. the Dreaded DC Cab Driver

Posted in musings tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:57 am by silversprung

Granted, it was late at night, (okay, more like 2am) but that’s what happens when the D.C. fireworks start at 9:30pm, right? So picture this: silversprung spouse and I bid adieu to our 4th of July friends, who live off U Street in the District, and walked out to the corner to begin the cab hailing process.

There, we discovered roving bands of angry, tired, (and many intoxicated) people with arms outstretched competing for passing taxicabs. And we were only an army of two. Plus, we had to say the dreaded words that make D.C. cab drivers cringe in disgust: “Um, we’re going to Maryland.”

We tried for close to an hour to hail a cab and we were totally unsuccessful, only because it was Independence Day and every single cab passing by was full. So we returned to our friends’ house and told them our story. We tried calling a cab, but no D.C. companies picked up their phones.

Then our generous friends decided that we would try again en masse. So now we were a team of five hailing a cab against roving bands of people hailing cabs. Finally, one of us flagged down an empty vehicle. No sooner had she said “Silver Spring” than the cab took off in a mad dash.

And hence, the beginning of our struggle against the unappealing state line cross.

It’s completely and utterly unfair that a cab driver can refuse to take a passenger and it’s even more unfair that if they do take someone across state lines, they can’t pick someone up and take them back. Therein lies the problem with the metro D.C. region’s interstate cab rules. Why would a cab driver want to drive someone to Maryland or Virginia if they can’t pick up a fare on the way back? That’s a lot of time and money wasted for them. And why don’t D.C. meters go past a certain dollar amount? Ridiculous!!

So what did silversprung spouse and I do? We said goodbye to our friends and decided to walk all the way to Dupont Circle. We stopped to check out the bus schedules, but of course nothing was running. (By the way, we’d also missed the last metro.)

Along the way, we observed countless groups of people flicking off passing cabs, yelling at the drivers to stop for them, people throwing their hands up in disbelief. We kept trekking.

Eventually, we made it to the circle and started hailing cabs again. We hopped into the first one and said the words, “we’re going to Silver Spring.” “Nope!” the driver replied and flipped on the interior lights. “Can’t do it!” he said. It was 3am and we were utterly exhausted. We tried to reason with him, telling him why he needed to help us out.  No dice.

I checked up on it and the D.C. taxi commission does not explicitly forbid cab drivers from refusing interstate fares, but does state that drivers may only refuse fares for the following reasons:

(a) Previously engaged;
(b) Unable or forbidden by the provisions of this title to do so;
(c) The operator has reason to believe the person is engaged in a violation of law;
(d) The operator has cause to fear injury to his or her person, property or taxicab.

I asked the DC Taxicab Commissioner about this today. Still waiting to hear back.

[Updated July 7, 2pm. I received the following reponse from the Commissioner’s office.

“Thank you for contacting the DC Taxicab Commission.  It is against the law for a driver to refuse to haul.  If this should happen again, please make sure that you get some identifying information ex: Tag number, Face ID or the name and number of the taxicab.”

I do have the name and number of the specific cab who forced us out this weekend, but I’m not going to turn him in.]

So, back to the story…

Around 3:30am silversprung spouse finally hit the jackpot, secured a friendly driver, negotiated a fare, and we started home.

With the windows down and the hot breeze jetting through the cab, we were treated to an array of insults as we drove back through U Street. “You suck!” a guy in a red t-shirt yelled as we drove up 20th. “You’re light is on, you jerk!!” another guy yelled on U. “You know your light is on!?” the next girl shouted, but she followed up quietly with, “Oh. There are people in there.”

It was a tough night/morning for anyone in the District trying to catch a cab home on the 4th, but for all those Maryland and Virginia residents, it’s never going to get any easier for us unless making a trip across state lines stops being a money-waster for all of those drivers out there.



  1. Terry in Silver Spring said,

    I’ve had them take me to the DC line, then walked the couple blocks from there. Otherwise, I make sure to take that last Metro or drive where I’m going when it’s going to be a late night.

  2. hugo said,

    I couldn’t be happier about having moved from DC to Silver Spring, but the one thing I can’t stand is the hassle of trying to get a cab late at night.

    As common carriers, cabs are not legally allowed to refuse your fare to Silver Spring from DC. At least, that’s what I tell the drivers, along with noting that I have noted their cab number and company and plan on lodging a complaint with the Taxicab Commission as soon as I can. That works about half the time. I’ve never actually lodged a complaint, though, as I assume it’d be a complete waste of time to do so.

  3. N said,

    I always just give Yellow Cab a call, and I’ve never had any problems. You tell the operator that you’re going to SS, so you’re basically assured a driver that will get you there. Unless the weather is bad, the cab usually shows up within 5 minutes of my call. And they use the meter, instead of gouging you. From most spots in NW DC, the pre-tip fare ends up being under $20.

    Now I’ve never tried calling on a holiday, and I’m guessing I would have had no luck either. But for non-holidays, always call; trying to hail a cab to get to SS will just lead to frustration.

  4. JG said,

    One of the few times I was able to get a driver to take me to Silver Spring from the district without a fight was when (after a long happy hour after work) I pretended to be a staffer for Fenty and threatened the driver with calling the police. He cursed but took me and the cost was under 20.

    I wouldn’t recommend doing that though, I’m going to try out the Yellow Cab advice offered by N.

  5. ke said,

    It should be noted that the District mayor is collectively punishing dc cab drivers along with thier families and children. The mayor is relentlessly working to wipe out independent minority and immigrant cab owners and operators off the street by creating a hostile environment in thier lively hood just to sell the industry to a few monopolies. among the many mechnisms he used is the fare setting. Two years ago the mayor by over reaching his authority reduced the interstate rate from a $1.80 to $1.50 permile which was previously dtermined by the WMATC(washington metrpolitan area transit commission). This rate is much lower than any jurisdiction in the surrounding and is the lowest in the country. the adminstration neither provides a sensible reason nor has a legitimate interest. Please find out the truth if you have any humanitarian interest.

  6. Clancy said,

    I’ve heard that people often have trouble getting DC cabs to take them to SS, but have never had a problem myself. However, I do try to cushion the potential blow by starting off the destination with details like “just off of 16th Street in Silver Spring,” or “just over the border in SS.” Since both are technically true, it seems to work. It also lets the driver know that I’m not asking them to take me up to many of the SSINO locations that might as well be in Columbia.

    The ones who have problems with drop-offs that are in downtown SS would probably have a problem with a location just on the DC side of the border, as they’re just as unlikely to get a fair there.

  7. one-star said,

    The 70 busess were still running…all the way up Georgia to the SS station

    of course you meet an interesting cross section of humanity…but practical people just drive and dont bother to rely on others for transport

    • silversprung said,

      Practical people just drive?! Is that why DC encouraged all 4th of July attendees not too drive? Sorry, I beg to differ, one-star…

      • one-star said,

        On a general basis, its better to drive. On a specific basis if the government is warning everyone not to drive all the faint-hearted obey and the roads are usually clearer than at normal times. If you were going to an event off U St I can pretty much promise you traffic and parking would not have been a problem on the 4th. If you were going to Penn Quarter its more of a toss-up.

        You also have to remember that the meter-fascists are off on the 4th as well and all the cops are on duty at the mall so you can pretty much ignore the parking regulations too

  8. deckcrasher said,

    It took me, my brother, my sister-in-law and four friends 90 minutes and *7* cabs who stopped but then refused to take me for me to get a cab from Van Ness into Bethesda one early New Year’s morning. Surprisingly, the couple of times I’ve had to take a cab from 22nd and M into Rockville at 4 in the morning after a long day at work, I haven’t had any trouble.

  9. Jen in Takoma Park said,

    Let me elaborate on one-star’s comment: Practical people don’t go to the 4th of July fireworks on the Mall. When one DOES go downtown, however, it’s much much easier just to drive.

    That said, even a committed driver like myself once in a while has a bit too much to drink and needs to take a cab home. The best trick is to get in the cab before you tell them where you are going. If that doesn’t work because the door is locked, plan B is hugo’s suggestion of telling them you have their cab number and you’ll lodge a complaint against them if they don’t take the fare.

  10. TakTip said,

    I have had to bluster and threaten over the years(.Both getting home to takoma park, or getting a cab who was waiting in a hotel line thinking they would get an airport fare are unpopular) I don’t tell a destination until seated, and then if they give me grief I make it clear I know they are required to take me and start writing down their identifying info.

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