Taxis: DC and Montgomery

Cabdrivers in Washington are trying to organize now, in protest of a coming decision that may change the required fare measurement system, from the zone maps to a metered system. Personally, I don’t have an inclination for zones or meters – or any other system. And I don’t that anyone in government should be deciding how businesses charge their customers. We don’t go around telling groceries whether they should charge for rutabagas per piece or per pound, do we? Let each company decide how it wants to charge people – and each passenger decide whether they want to use that cab or not.

But the cabbies in the District have a legitimate beef: They fear that the County may decide to impose a metered system and make other requirements, leading to a kind of bureaucratization of the industry. The cabbies enjoy their status as independent operators in the District. The Gazette reports that “(t)hey fear that meters and other regulations will put DC taxis into the hands of big business.” Another concern is that customers will be driven away by meters, since meters will increase fares, inasmuch as congestion raises fares under a metered system, but not under the zone system.

In other words, they fear ending up with a regulatory system like the mess we have in Montgomery County taxi industry:

– insufficient number of cabs (because the licenses are very restricted)

– no independent operators (four companies own all the cab licenses in MoCo)

– no chance for an individual to break in to the business and compete.

The county regulations preclude consumer sovereignty from operating in Montgomery, and the DC drivers are afraid that the DC government is heading in the same dysfunctional direction.

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