DC’s Taxi Commission Sends Me a Nastygram

In response to my post the other day on Washington DC’s taxi protection racket cracking down on Uber again, I got a nastygram from the DC Taxicab Commission’s public information officer.

Her argument is essentially that they aren’t forcing Uber to go out of business here, since they could always just comply with the new rules.

But nowhere has she or anyone else explained the consumer harm that supposedly follows from Uber being allowed to run its business (which is why the much more likely explanation is that the taxi commission is backing entrenched interests, as they’ve done before — with a string of federal convictions to show for it).

It turns out, of course, that the DC taxi commission’s valiant efforts to protect consumers are occurring despite never having actually received a complaint from any consumer.

The note I received, though, was incredibly telling about where the DC government is coming from in all of this.

Ironically, regulators in DC have had the farthest to go to clean up the taxi industry because of the legacy of a deregulated, open-entry system which was the most atrocious in the US. Uber represents just the cutting edge of an attempt to deregulate yet again — with the same disastrous consequences. The city needs to stand up to Uber and its thuggish ways if they are to achieve a modern, integrated, and well-governed cab industry.

They believe that DC has had the farthest to go to clean up the industry because it used to be possible for anyone who could meet safety standards to start a business… rather than because it was about the dirtiest, most crooked agency in local government anywhere in the country?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Something that does not get mentioned in the taxi / über or similar peer to peer ride services is wheelchair access to transportation. There is nothing precluding Uber or other services from offering wheelchair accessible transportation but it has taken 20 years and lots of litigation to even start to get some (subpar) access to wheelchair taxis in major cities. I am strongly in favor or Über and peer to peer systems but they should be sure to include accessible rides or they’ll be under another point of actually legitimate criticism for leaving 20% of their market out in the cold.

  2. The Taxi Commission holds up to the fine standards of most of the DC government. I’m glad I got away from the area before they had a chance to get handed self rule. No telling how it would be there without the Fed to watch over them.

    I just realized I said the Federal government was doing something good. What does that say about DC government.

  3. The stories you posted don’t even start to reveal the corruption of the DC taxi commission. In DC the taxi industry is largely run by a group of West African immigrants. They are ruthless in protecting their turf and are good at bringing down politicians who do not support them. The corruption is incredible. You have a huge swath of the population supporting reform of the taxicab commission and supporting UBER yet this sort of thing happens. It is incredible they would send you a message like that, who in the world would think that that was a good PR move. A quick Google search of the DC taxi commission and corruption yields multiple examples of the FBI putting people in jail.

  4. Google returns a name and contact info for this individual, but it doesn’t sound like a “she”, at least taking precedent from British prime ministers.

  5. This is very similar to what they are trying to do with the food trucks as well. Use the city council to legislate and regulate any competition out of business. Typical DC crap.

  6. DC Taxicab Commission’s public information officer? How many employees does this Commission have? To supervise how many taxis? Paying a full time person to handle media contacts and such seems pretty extravagant.

    I suppose if politics is your primary product, it makes some sense.

  7. @Mickey-Gary lives in Arlington and the DC government types are afraid to cross the river into VA, so he’s pretty safe.

  8. Tried uber on your recommendation in Lyon. They came back and said “no Car available” so I did a taxi for less than your qoute

  9. It is sad that some businesses are so corrupt and it is so hard to change them. Cabbies are one of them. I refuse to use them in LV anymore. Prior to the bust (economy) in 2008 I rarely had issues but after that it was like lets screw everyone.

    This is one area that should be opened up to anyone with a good driving record and passing a background check.

  10. DC cabs are the dirtiest, most dishonest cabs I’ve encountered in this country. Try getting a ride back to VA from AdMo at 2am. Not gonna happen. They’ll flat out refuse. I routinely get into arguments with dc cabbies bc they’re so corrupt and I call them out on it. Über is the best thing to ever happen to hired transportation in DC.

  11. Tim Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation has been fighting corrupt taxi laws for years with some major successes. Take a stand! There IS a way to fight these people. Donate to PLF and get these cartels outlawed.

    I also highly recommend Tim’s book, The Right to Earn A Living, which covers this topic.

    Related Article: http://blog.pacificlegal.org/2012/plf-challenges-americas-most-anti-competitive-licensing-law/
    Review of Tim’s book: http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2011-winter/timothy-sandefur.asp

  12. @NSX – if the person who shows up in google searches as the taxicab PIO is the same person who runs a PR firm under the same name, I would guess that this individual is a consultant acting on behalf of the taxicab commission.

  13. @nsx at flyertalk, not sure how many people work for the dctc, but I recently saw a full-on DCTC police type car pulling over a black car in downtown DC.

    I agree with the majority of the commenters here, Uber has been a great improvement for DC residents and visitors alike. Try getting a cab pretty much anyplace in NE DC, let alone at an early hour for an airport run. I never have waited more than 15 minutes for an uber car to show up! Uber is a good business I will continue to support.

  14. Careful Gary, you might be on the receiving end of an IRS audit if you’re not careful 😉

  15. I prefer zTrip any day over Uber. It’s a new service here in Phoenix that just expanded to Orlando and Tampa. I think it’s going to Denver next. I’d rather use a service that employees drivers than contract with anyone who has a vehicle as Uber does. Heard way too many horror stories regarding them. Plus I get airline miles for any airport run.

  16. I protested the DC Taxi Commission’s decision today by allowing the bellman to escort me to the grey Town Car outside the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel today to get over to DCA. The bellman got into a shouting match with the first taxi driver – both were West African and I was a little worried that they’d come to blows.

    The sedan driver charged me $2 more than what it cost me to get to the hotel from Crystal City. I thought it was worth it given the fact that I actually had headroom compared to all the NoVa taxi drivers favoring the Prius.

  17. @Farhad because it’s too long to copy the full text into a post, and it’s not convenient to scan and upload while I’m out of the country.

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