Monday, April 28, 2008

Cell Phones and Cabs

Ok, so I don't always read the Post as well or quickly as I should - missed this story from a couple of Sunday's ago about drivers vs. passengers on the cell phone debate.

From the passenger's side in the article:

" I think it's a party line," says Michael Levin. "One big party line and they're all talking to each other."

"I always assume they're talking about me," says Levin's friend Laura Silberman. "It's usually in a foreign language . . . but I assume they're saying, 'Ugh, this annoying girl just got in and now I need to --' "

And then from the driver's side:

"If the customer is rude or if I'm talking to my young son," says cabdriver Tekle Atsku, "I'm not going to get off the phone. I'm not."

"We're not the only ones" on our cells, says driver Birhanu Gizaw. "Sometimes passengers, they don't even stop talking to tell me where to go. They get annoyed that I'm not going but they don't tell me where to go."

Is it rude? Or just part of everyday life anymore? The Post reporter goes on to note:

Perhaps it boils down to an etiquette problem. Butting in on someone else's discussion should be done under only dire circumstances. Is an acceptable interruption . . . when you know of road construction ahead? When you speak Amharic and you feel you have something to add to the front-seat conversation? What, exactly, does a cabdriver owe his passenger? Safe transport from A to B, or sparkling dialogue on the way?

What is the right balance? I don't use my cell phone in public unless I have to (yeah, I know, there are 3 of us left) and that includes in a cab. On the other hand, I've never had a problem with a cabbie using his phone, as long as I know that's what he's doing. At least a couple of times I've thought the driver was talking to me when he wasn't. In the morning I don't like to talk to anyone, co-workers, drivers, family. I am not chatty in the morning. In the evening, I'll chat away. Most of the time I'm with someone, and we'll talk to each other, the driver usually not chiming in.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Latest from Mayor Fenty on Meters

The mayor has said that drivers will have a grace period of a month to get their meters installed. From today's WaPo:
Beginning May 1, city inspectors and D.C. police will spot-check taxicabs and issue warnings until June 1, after which fines will be assessed to those without time and distance meters. . . .

Yesterday, cab drivers were lined up at one of those firms, District Cab on Benning Road in Northeast. Ajab Abdus-Samad, who has been driving since 1968, has an appointment next month to get his meter.

Linroy Hanson, who's been driving for 32 years, said he would comply with the law. "I have to obey the law," he said.

Others, however, were less sanguine about the change. Some of the more than 6,500 drivers have threatened to strike, while cab companies struggle to meet the deadline.

Yellow Cab has 600 cabs, but the company won't be finished installing meters until it receives licensing approval from the city to convert existing meters, which are equipped to measure zones, in about half of its fleet, officials said. The company will have to modify them to measure time and distance. The other half of the fleet will get new meters once they arrive, said Roy D. Spooner, the company's general manager.

"The June 1 deadline is pushing it," Spooner said. He said that the installation process, though cumbersome, is not his biggest concern.

"My biggest issue is what service we will be providing customers between May 1 and May 31," he said.

It remains unclear whether a two-tier fare structure will be in effect for the month. Asked what passengers should do if they get in a cab after May 1 and are charged a zone rate because no meter has been installed, Fenty suggested that riders report the driver's name, company and license plate number to the Taxicab Commission at 202-645-6018 or Pressed further to explain whether passengers should take another cab or refuse to pay the zone rate, Fenty and Nickles said riders should report the driver, but that the general confusion over which pay scheme will be used should be short-lived.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Meters vs. Zone Fare Estimator

I've added a link to the Post's Taxi Fare Estimator to the right. I had a link to this some months ago, along with a note that for my most common rides, the meters would be more expensive than the zone.

I decided to try it again to see.
Trip from work to home - $11 by zone; $11.50 by meter
Trip from work to current most common client - $8.80 by zone, $9 by meter.

The zone system is cheaper for me on both counts.

Court Agrees with DC Mayor

From today's WaPo

In her ruling, Superior Court Judge Brook Hedge said Fenty has authority under the Home Rule Act and a law passed by Congress in 2006 to order the switch to meters. .

"Since the Mayor had authority to issue rules, he had authority to decide which meter system (time and distance or zone) was in the best interest of the District of Columbia," Hedge wrote in her ruling.

Cabdrivers say it will be impossible for all the city's 7,000 cabdrivers and owners to convert their cabs to meters by the May 1 deadline. Drivers face a $1,000 fine every time they are caught picking up rides without meters after that date.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

New Poll

Drivers and Riders (and old poll shows that either most of my readers are riders, or they are just more vocal) ;) - I've added a new poll on DC meters.

Latest on DC Meters from the Post

The deadline to install meters in DC cabs is May 1. But most drivers aren't even close to that. Many are waiting on a court case ruling on the whole meters decision (that might come next week if all are lucky). In the meantime, companies that make meters aren't producing them because they don't know if there will be a market. And drivers aren't installing them. Well most aren't. Some are going ahead. Here are a few bits from today's WaPo:

Confusion marks every step of the attempt at the historic change. Most cabdrivers have balked at paying the estimated $350 for a meter until the court challenge is decided. Without a guarantee of paying customers, the three approved meter manufacturers are holding up shipping thousands of meters to the District. Some meter installers became licensed to do business only yesterday afternoon.

Everyone has been awaiting the outcome of the lawsuit filed last month by the D.C. Coalition of Cabdrivers, Companies and Associations, a group opposed to the change. The coalition argued in a March 27 hearing that Fenty (D) had exceeded his authority by ordering the switch from zones to meters. . . .

"The May 1 deadline still stands," D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Leon J. Swain Jr. said yesterday. On that date, a cab without a meter "will not be considered a D.C. taxicab," he said. Drivers are subject to a $1,000 fine every time they drive an unmetered cab.

Swain said there are just six licensed installers, at least some of which are cab companies, and they will have to operate "24 hours a day, seven days a week" to meet the deadline.

Acting Attorney General Peter Nickles said yesterday that the District "will not be unreasonable" if the judge's ruling comes "late in the game." He declined to speculate on extending the deadline. . . .

Pulsar, a meter company on Long Island, N.Y., likewise has shipped some orders to the District but is awaiting news from the court before shipping massive orders, an employee there said.

Meter installers, in the meantime, are gearing up.

Mushtaq Gilani, owner of Icon Cab, which has about 20 vehicles, has yet to install one device, he said, because his shipment has not arrived from the manufacturer. He hopes to begin this weekend.

"What I tell people is, 'You know the meters are coming, if not today, then tomorrow,' " he said. "I say, get ready for it and then whatever happens, you can go from there."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rude, Rude, Rude, Rude, Rude

While standing and waiting to flag down a cab the other morning, a guy came out and stood near me for a bit, then walked against traffic for 1/2 a block, and flagged down the first cab that had come down the street in the 10 minutes I'd been waiting.

I've come out onto the street to get a cab before where someone else is already standing. I always move down to give space, but AFTER them, not before. I figure they were here first, they should get the first available cab.

This guy was just rude, rude, rude, rude, rude.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

New Poll

Moving on from the strike to meters - and who wants them, or doesn't want them. Is it as cut and dried as riders yes, drivers no? Who knows. You tell me.