Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fair Fares for Urban Residents? DC Taxi Commission considering a rate increase

(awesome photo from living-in-washingtondc.com)
Both the Washington Post and the Washington Examiner are reporting that the DC Taxicab Commission could vote as early as today to nearly double the existing per-mile charge from $1.50 to $2.75. While many long-sought concessions are still on the table as to if they would be included as contingencies of this deal (think newer, cleaner cabs, on-board credit card processing, GPS, etc) and may still be thrown out with the bathwater, a few things, like the additional fees for extra passengers, luggage, and the like, would be eliminated as part of the discussion. There is no mention anywhere on if doubling the rates means the gasoline surcharge would also be eliminated.

The question is this: is doubling the rate a fair fare for urban dwellers?
Certainly, those who would take a trip out to the airport or to Union Station appreciate killing off fees for bringing bags and actually using all of the taxicab, including the trunk, that you are paying for. Young urban dwellers have long hated the additional fee for more passengers, as it produced two inverse problems - first, going out with a group of friends costs a lot more. Second, going out alone made it harder to get a cab in busy areas, where they would almost always prefer a bigger (and therefore more lucrative) group to a single person.

I certainly don't speak for everyone in Shaw (or even a big minority on some issues...), but I know many people in Shaw take cabs rarely. It's easy enough to walk to where you want to go, walk to Metro, or walk to Capital Bikeshare and avoid cabs entirely. Plus, there's the fact that on-street parking seems easier here than in many neighborhoods, so many people here own a private car. When I am taking a cab, however, it's typically because I'm in a rush, and typically I'm not going very far.

That being said, let's examine three different scenarios, assuming zero traffic, from Shaw to different places people might be going, under the current laws and the proposed law. All three scenarios assume a passenger traveling alone, with no luggage:

Start in Shaw at the Convention Center front entrance, going 2.1 miles to M Street & Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown:
Current Cost: $7.25 + tip ($3 base fare, $3.25 mileage charges, $1 gas surcharge)
Proposed Cost: $9.75 + tip ($3 base fare, $5.75 mileage charges, $1 gas surcharge)
For the Shaw resident: an extra $2.50 (or 34% more than the fare today)
Without the gas surcharge: an extra $1.50 (only 20% more than the fare today)

Start in Shaw at 9th and Rhode Island, going 1.6 miles to the Wilson Building at 13th and Pennsylvania Avenues, NW:
Current Cost: $6.25 + tip ($3 base fare, $2.25 mileage charges, $1 gas surcharge)
Proposed Cost: $8.50 + tip ($3 base fare, $4.50 mileage charges, $1 gas surcharge)
For the Shaw resident: an extra $2.25 (or 36% more than the fare today)
Without the gas surcharge: an extra $1.50 (only 20% more than the fare today)


Start in Shaw at 7th and O Streets, NW, going 3.7 miles to dinner in Cleveland Park at Connecticut Avenue & Porter Streets, NW:
Current Cost: $9.25 + tip ($3 base fare, $5.25 mileage charges, $1 gas surcharge)
Proposed Cost: $14.25 + tip ($3 base fare, $10.25 mileage charges, $1 gas surcharge)
For the Shaw resident: an extra $5.00 (or 54% more than the fare today)
Without the gas surcharge: an extra $4.00 (only 43% more than the fare today)

It's easy to see, using the above examples, that this new proposal is a pretty dramatic increase over what we have now. Certainly, taxi cab drivers deserve to make a decent living. According to a recent Washington Post article, they make about $110 per day. Let's assume 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year - that's $27,500 a year. The average resident in the 20001 zip code in Shaw in 2000, the most recent year for which Census data is available, made $25,095. Although the 2010 Census data for 20001 is not available yet, I'd be willing to bet that number hasn't jumped to more than $35,000 per year, max.

Now let's look at one last issue - pay for performance. Some cab drivers are awesome. They know exactly where you're going even if you can only remember part of the name of the restaurant, the cab is clean, recently built, and the driver is friendly. Some cab drivers are awful. They won't stop to pick up minorities, refuse to take you where you ask to go, spend the entire time talking on the phone, and the cab makes you want to dump a bottle of bleach over your head as soon as you get out. That's where low base pay gets equalized based on performance through tips. My personal rule is not to tip, at all, if any of the following are true: the driver takes a phone call while I'm in the cab, the seat belts do not work, or the driver resisted in taking me where I said I needed to go. I tip exceptionally well, though, sometimes up to 100%, for a driver fitting the "awesome" category described above. I doubt that I'm alone.

What do you think of the proposed increase? Is this a fair fare for urban dwellers? Will you take cabs less if fares increase? Will you just tip less (or not at all) to offset your additional cost? Is it reasonable to both double fares and keep a gas surcharge if gas is below, say, $6 or $7 a gallon? Leave your thoughts below.

2 comments:

  1. I know I'd sure love an 83% raise this year...

    ReplyDelete
  2. After seeing the numbers and taking in this info, I would probably tip less and tip well for service that truly amazed me.

    ReplyDelete