Recently, a reader from Californian asked me:
How easy is it to hail a cab up around Dupont Circle area and north up 16th?
Now, the short answer is, it's no problem at all, but it's spurred me to examine the larger issue of hailing a cab in Washington, DC.
Quite understandably, many of our visitors are not in the practice of hailing a cab on a daily basis. Others come from cities where the cab system works differently (and yes, often better). So, let's take a more comprehensive look at some common questions about our local species of taxis.
1. How do I get a cab?
You can get a cab in one of two ways: "Hailing" it from the street or calling for it. To hail a cab, just raise your arm when you see one coming. If they don't already have a passenger, they'll pull over, sometimes swerving through three lanes of oncoming traffic and over two pedestrians.
2. I've been on this corner for twenty minutes and, although several folks have made me attractive and presumably illegal offers, no cabs have come by.
Right. First off, stay in a well lit area. Second, cabs generally cruise in high traffic areas, like downtown, busy sections of Northwest DC (Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, etc.), and some selected parts of Capitol Hill. For example, I've seen about as many bald eagles near my house as cabs looking for a fare. You're going to have to call a dispatcher, which will cost you $2.00 on your fare. Without giving anything like a recommendation, here are the numbers of two of the larger ones:
- Yellow Cab: (202) 544-1212
- Diamond Cab: (202) 387-221 (202) 387-6200
If you think that you will be in an area during your visit that doesn't reliably get cab service (i.e. the street address ends in NE or SE), program those numbers into your phone now.
3. I heard that DC's cab didn't have meters and used some sort of crazy "zone" system? Is that true?
Not anymore. Until last year, cab fare was based on how many "zones" you traveled. We recently abandoned our attempt to base modern traffic systems on 1935 laws and transitioned, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, to a more transparent meter system, based on time and distance traveled.
4. My meter reads $4.75 but the cabbie just pressed a button and it's now $8.25. What gives?
I'm guessing you have an additional person ($1.50) and a piece of luggage you put in the trunk ($2.00). For a full list of additional fares, check here (pdf).
5. What's that smell?
Vomit and kabobs.
6. Hey, when I was in New York they had these snazzy things where you could use a credit card. Can I use one here?
Yeah, and the cabs were yellow there too. Have cash with you.
7. I'd like to go back to the place I was at in question nr 2, and meet the "friend" I made there again, but the cabbie is refusing to take me there!
I always get in the cab before telling the driver my destination. They bitch and moan about it, but they're required to take you anywhere in DC. If the driver is still obstinate, you can (and should) call the Taxicab Commission at (202) 645-6018 to report him. And for all of our complaints about cabs in DC, the Commission can be very customer service oriented!
8. This cabbie just told me he's not allowed to take people to addresses in DC. What gives?
Ok, quick caveat to nr 7. That only applies to DC cabs. By law, Virginia and Maryland cabs are not allowed to take people from one DC address to another. So if a Virginia cab takes someone to DC, he can only pick up people heading back to Virginia. So make sure, if you are heading to a DC address, you hail DC cabs. It should say it on the door, and look for the DC Taxicab sticker on the outside of the car as you get in.
9. My receipt is just a slip of paper with nothing about my trip on it.
Yup, if you need a receipt for reimbursement, you'll probably have to fill it in yourself. It's kind of annoying, in that I'm not trying to pad my expense account, just properly fill in my paperwork. If you do need a receipt, I like to ask for it at the beginning of the trip.
10. Don't you usually like to have an even ten questions on these types of posts?