Zoning out

Eli’s post on D.C. taxicab fare proposals comes out strongly for the zone system over metered cabs.

As a person who used to take lots of cabs, I don’t anymore, except when I’m running late for an important meeting. I live 1 ¼ miles — but two zones — from CEI’s offices, and the cost of a zoned cab during morning or evening rush hour is $7.90 plus tip. If there are two of us, it’s $9.40, plus tip.

Compare that to cab fares in — yes, Manhattan — where the cost for a mile-and-a-quarter trip would be about $5 or $6, with no additional charge for another passenger.

Of course, I wouldn’t be able to get a cab easily — or at all — in NYC. That’s because there are only 13,000 licensed Yellow Medallion taxis in NYC, with 3.7 million people working there (not counting visiting business people and tourists). To operate a cab in NYC requires a medallion — currently selling for $424,000.

In DC, on the other hand, it’s easy to get a taxi. Ease of entry is the most logical explanation. It costs $250 to get a business license to operate a taxicab company and it looks like there’s a mandatory hack license course required for $375. Pay these fees, pass the exam, and, voilà, you’re a taxi driver.

Here’s another solution to the zone vs. meter issue: Rather than the D.C. Taxicab Commission making a unilateral decision that affects all cabs, let the cab drivers decide individually whether they want to use a meter or a zone system. As long as they post the fare schedule, the customers shouldn’t have a problem. And, I’ll bet some drivers will start advertising their preference on their cabs. That way, too, customers have a choice — I may start taking cabs again, if I can find a metered one.