Talkin’ Transit: Gas Bags


Cabs and Metro, two of our favorite subjects in the DC blogosphere and other conversational mediums, have surfaced again in the last couple of days. How could we not discuss it here?

First, cabbies. Did you know the taxicab commission extended the $1 gas surcharge through January 31, 2009? The last extension ended on Sept. 29 and the sneaky commission just slipped it right under all our noses.

Now, when it was instigated back in January 2007, the average gas price around the area was hovering around $3.13. And of course, during the summer they were flirting with the $4 mark. But now? If you’re a driver you know that gas has dropped to an average of $2.68 in the region, with continued expectation it will fall through the next month or two.

Commission Chairman Leon Swain told FOX 5 that he wanted to wait and see what happens to gas prices over the next few weeks and that he could – theoretically! – reconvene the commission to re-vote on the issue and drop the surcharge. He could – theoretically! – do this as early as next week. Reading between the lines, it’s more like, “If the public raises a stink about it, we’ll look into it again and maybe we’ll give in.” Seems to me, however, that it’s more a bone to toss at disgruntled cabbies still fuming about the enforcement of meters in the city.

Think the $1 is still worth it? Share your views in comments.

So let’s turn our attention to WMATA. Again. Metro issued a press release on Monday that they’ll be doing random bag inspections prior to passengers entering the Metro system, for security and awareness purposes. Comments have been fast and furious on other blog sites (and feel free to share your thoughts here as well) on whether it’s a warranted invasion of privacy or pandering to a paranoid security viewpoint.

Now, WMATA’s press release states that the Transit Police “anticipate conducting random bag searches…when circumstances warrant heightened vigilance.” Presumably, during such times as the upcoming Inauguration in January and other high-profile events. When the searches are conducted, they’ll be checking bags, briefcases, backpacks, boxes, suitcases and even purses. You’ll have to go through the inspection point before entering the station proper or boarding a bus; if you refuse inspection, you’ll have to enter the Metro system from another stop.

Oh, and if you’re thinking that watchdog groups will jump on the legal bandwagon, pay attention to the last statement in the release: “Legal authority to inspect packages brought into the Metro system has been established by the court system on similar types of inspections in mass transit properties, airports, military facilities and courthouses.” I know the NYC system has had a similar procedure for three years now and it has survived several court challenges. Would it be worth the effort here? Who knows. No doubt someone will find an angle to try.

The one question I really have though, is: after all the griping from Catoe about reduced funding, budget shortfalls, higher capacities and mounting repairs, where is Metro getting the money to fund these MTPD officers to conduct these random checks? And is the increase in cost really worth the effort?

I’m not entirely sure it is.

Having lived in the DC area for ten years, Ben still loves to wander the city with his wife, shooting lots of photos and exploring all the latest exhibits and galleries. A certified hockey fanatic, he spends some time debating the Washington Capitals club with friends – but everyone knows of his three decade love affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A professional writer, gamer, photographer, and Lego enthusiast, Ben remains captivated by DC and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

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One thought on “Talkin’ Transit: Gas Bags

  1. I noticed the new $1 surcharge last week and asked the cabbie when he thought it would end. He hoped never, I wondered why not already. Its just a defatco rate increase that they would never get any other way.