No Metro Means Taxis Screw You Over

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

For some reason (I still can’t fathom why) the Metro closed at midnight on Friday and Saturday.  This meant that for the average person out on the town, taxis were the only option for getting home, and apparently cabbies got wind of this.  Instead of turning on their meters and offering their fares the normal rate,  drivers would jack prices up two and three times the normal, knowing that cab scarcity and the freezing cold would leave their patrons with little recourse but to accept the gouged prices.  This is illegal.  But, when the driver says “30 dollars to take you there” and pulls away when you inform him of the law, what can you do?  So, as one of those screwed-over patrons from last night, I offer a hearty “burn in hell” to the cabbies of DC.  Seriously, die in fire.

Kirk is a Maine-born, military brat who moved no fewer than 12 times during his childhood. He came to the DC area in 2004 for his undergrad and decided that it was the place for him. Since graduating, he’s nabbed a job with the Fed and spends most of his free time hunting for cheap thrills in the city. Find out why he loves DC.

16 thoughts on “No Metro Means Taxis Screw You Over

  1. Issues like this make me believe even more in a 24 hour metro system. I got lucky recently, and have found cabs at least having the meter on. But I have gotten the “$20 or no trip” from a guy. I try to tip the honest ones to make it worth it though, so it doesn’t really matter.

  2. Get in the cab before you tell them where to take you. If the price offered seems ridiculously high, inform them of the law. At this point, they can’t kick you out of the cab. If the call the cops on you, so what? You’re just trying to get a fair price for your ride home.

    If they insist on you paying the full amount, get their cab id, and ask for a receipt. Next day, call the cab company and whatever particular agency regulates cabs.

  3. As for why Metro closed early, per their website:

    Closing the rail system three hours early will allow critical utility work to be conducted, and will enable Metro workers to continue to clear ice and snow from tracks, rail yards and rail “switches,” which are critical track components that allow trains to maneuver around problem areas by switching track

    While I wish they had been able to stay open late, I prefer early closure to continue clearing tracks over having some stations still closed.

  4. Always get into the cab before telling the cab driver where you’re going or agreeing to pay any inflated price. And if you can, get to your location BEFORE you argue with the cab driver over the price. Remind him that what the meter says is what you pay. And feel free to call the police yourself – that’ll probably solve any problem faster than arguing.

  5. Ok so this happened to me Friday night and it got crazy intense. The guy wanted $25 to take us to Arlington from downtown. I was already inside with the doors closed. I said no way, turn on the meter. He said that he had to charge a flat rate. I said ok give me your taxi number and I will go ahead and call the taxi commission (and pulled out my cell). I asked him several times what his taxi number was and then he started screaming at me and got super intense, yelling at me to get out of his cab. It got to the point where he looked he was about to hit me, he was super pissed and animated. He was taxi #77, but I couldn’t see what the cab company name was. This guy was a complete ass and I can’t STAND it when these guys pull this crap.

  6. First, it’s insane that the city sets taxi rates. The only thing it does it keeps overall prices higher by not allowing new entrants to compete for business on price — which is why incumbent cab companies are so in favor of this sort of regulation (along with the high license fee requirements for operating a cab). So, without these laws, you’d pay, on average, lower prices, meaning the spikes wouldn’t feel as bad.

    Second, when more people want to ride cabs than there are cabs immediately available, some sort of rationing must occur. There are a number of ways this can happen, from a lottery system, to “Tallest Person Gets a Cab,” to fisticuffs. But the two most likely are (1) higher prices, until quantity supplied equals quantity demanded or (2) longer waits in line. Both aren’t fun for people standing in the cold. You are advocating longer waits, which is fine, but other people may be more than happy to pay a higher fee in order to get a cab right away. If the cabs charge too much, they won’t get customers, leading them to drop their prices, until the price equals the market clearing rate. Beyond this, though, rationing via prices brings with it a special bonus: higher prices acts as a signal to taxi providers, telling them that quantity demanded has increased and incentivising them to put more cabs on the road, bring cabs in from out of town (though this is sadly prohibited by those competition-killing regulations), or to buy more cabs to keep on hand for events like this. High prices also encourage new providers to enter the market–and then, through competition, lower prices again.

    The point is that you’re upset because the cab drivers want to act the way basic microeconomics says they ought to act, and the way economics teaches us will lead to a better market, with more access and lower prices. In order for that system to function, however, prices have to act as information signals, and to do that they must be able to rise and fall based on changes in demand.

    If suddenly more people wanted to advertise on We Love DC, more than you could accommodate all at once, would you raise your prices? And if so, how would you respond to an advertiser telling you to “die in fire” because he didn’t like your new rates?

  7. I had this EXACT situation happen to me the other night.

    I was told to pay $25 for a 4 block ride (I didn’t know it was 4 blocks getting in) that took like 5 minutes

    I gave him a $10 and laughed at him wanting $25. He threatened to call the cops and I told him to do that….He then tried shoving me to which I grabbed his hand and held him down.

    He eventually got into his cab and left

    Was unbelievable

  8. Here’s the thing, folks, the Meter system is the law. It’s required by the taxicab commission, and you can’t operate a taxicab without turning on the meter. You can’t negotiate around it, you can only operate within its confines.

  9. The difference, Aaron, is that advertising rates on WLDC are unregulated. Taxicab rates, on the other hand, are considerably more regulated. It’s a reasonable point of view that those regulations are unjust, should be changed, are counter to market realities, etc. But the fact remains that these are the known regulations involved in being a cabbie in DC. If cabbies don’t like them, their choices are to either suck it up and follow them anyway, or give up being a cabbie in DC.

  10. My favorite part of this weekend was walking home to Bethesda FROM DUPONT CIRCLE. Yes, who doesn’t love an awesome 8 mile walk in the cold at 2 am?

    This happened not only because Metro was closed, but because I was ignored by dozens of cab drivers despite being the only person walking in the right lane on Mass Ave (thanks to miles of untouched sidewalks). The two cabs that actually stopped refused to even accept a trip to the District line.

  11. we had to walk home from chinatown on friday because metro left us stranded there. we tried to get a cab ride to SE (nationals stadium) but all cabs came in doors locked, wouldn’t let us in without telling address and one told us which was about twice the regular. apparently snow emergency means that they have to charge double one of them told me.

    ive never been screwed over by a cabbie in dc before friday. i am also a very generous tipper. or i was… screw it from now on. we walked home in freezing rain and i will never tip another cab in dc.. in fact ill do my damnest to not use one again.

  12. The comments about the free market being allowed to control all fares are very naive unfortunately. In a dream world, that would be awesome to allow the demand fully control the fares. But that would in no way work for something like taxi cab fares, they require a certain level of regulation to protect consumers from broad scams. In the real world, the free market is what our economy is based on, but it still absolutely requires regulation at times to protect the people.

  13. I was in this horrible situation–plus, we were a group of black women competing mainly against white people for cabs, so there was no way we were getting home without contemplating some alternatives. At least 3 times, cab drivers saw us, nodded “no”, drove past us, and stopped to let in the white people just past us.

    I was fortunate; we were at Metro Center and the 42 bus showed up! My other friends had a boyfriend pick them up. Another friend managed to convince a cab driver to take her to Dupont Circle.