City Desk

Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s Cab Driver Fights Back, Sticks to Ride-and-Ditch Story

Jerrold_NadlerThought Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) vs. cabbie Abraham Habteab was over? Of course not! No one lets the man get you down, especially cab drivers who want their $8 cab fare paid back. And no one wants to be thrown under the bus by a stingy congressman.

Last week, Habteab picked up Nadler at Union Station. He took him to his hotel in Southwest D.C., but an argument erupted between the two when they reached their destination. Nadler insisted the driver keep the meter running while he ran inside to drop off his things. Habtreab said he had to restart the meter. Nadler ended up ditching the driver when he didn't get his way.

When Habteab went to the press with his story, Nadler came back at him with documentation supposedly proving he was in the right. Nadler paraded himself as an advocate for rider rights, standing up against for all things wrong in the horrid world of D.C. transportation.

Well now Habteab and D.C. cab drivers are back and kicking. Conclusion: Don't piss off a cabbie.

Justice for DC Taxis issued their own statement supporting Habtreab's account of the situation:

“The regulations clearly say that a stop must be en route to the final destination.  To the best of our knowledge, en route means on the way or in the same general direction.  This trip was just the opposite.  The Congressman asked the driver to double back.” said Nathan Price, spokesperson for the D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers Association.

Habteab still says Nadler never told him the full itinerary of the trip until they arrived at the hotel. The second leg of the trip involved a destination in the opposite direction and Habteab insisted on restarting the meter. Nadler was so ticked off he left the cab without paying and jumping into another for his trip back to the Capitol.

Justice for DC Taxis does have a point. In the D.C. Taxi Commission's FAQ, it states that the multiple stops is only applicable in "one direction" and the final destination must be stated at the start of the trip. Nadler and Habteab seem to disagree on what was said at Union Station.

A good suggestion for any cool-headed individual: Pay the damn fare, get a receipt and file a complaint. Then your name isn't splashed in the news as a ride-and-ditch participant.

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  • Screwed by Too Many DC Cabbies

    As anyone who's actually done so would know, filing a complaint to the Taxi Commission is just as much an exercise in futility as writing a letter to Santa Claus.

    DC cabbies whine on about being forced to join the 20th century by replacing the zone system with meters, and it's common knowledge that despite it being illegal, drivers routinely refuse fares to Virginia. And that's when they aren't busy smoking in their cabs or yammering away on their cell phones.

    Whether or not Nadler's driver was in the right, the taxi industry in DC is out of control. Unless and until cab drivers start obeying the laws they don't like, they shouldn't be protected by the ones they do.

    There's a better suggestion: people should take public transporation, or go for a walk.

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  • carolyn a. robinson

    I am a professional public service vehicle operator for 35 years. ALL drivers should not be catagorized as unwilling to abide by rules and regulations. Customerily Congressman don't engage in theft/robbery by not paying. the problem lies with the DC Taxicab Commission that has saw fit not to make the rules and regulations - Title 31 available published in final form that pvh drivers and the riding public would be able to review the regulation. The problem is Title 31 has been in the revision mode for 5+ years. If the drivers are not informed of the current regulations how do you propose the rules are followed. The answer falls on the DCTC that only meets with drivers bimonthly for two hours. Surely concerns can not be addressed for 8,000+ cabdrivers in that limited amount of time. A real perspective can be obtained by surveying drivers. Everyone has opinions but you should go to the source.

  • Trulee Pist

    There's a lot of taxicabs in DC, Nadler. Watch your back.

  • Zonked

    Congressman Jerrold Nadler on Oct., 22, 2009 sent an email to Mr. Swain the Chairman of D.C. Taxicab Commission asking:
    “Query: If a passenger gets into a cab, and goes to one destination to drop off a piece of luggage or for some other brief purpose, and then proceeds to a second destination, should the driver charge one fare ( including waiting time), or can he insist on the passenger paying two separate fares? And does it make a difference if the two destinations are in different directions?
    Please reply to Jerrold Nadler……
    Thank you”

    And Mr. Swain replied on the same day with the following answer:
    “Morning Mr. Nadler
    The DCMR Title 31 Taxicab regulations allow the following:
    801.5 Except for declared snow emergency fares provided for in § 804, the regular metered fare listed in § 801.3, not including extra charges and surcharges listed in § 801.6, shall not exceed $19.00 for trips originating and ending and with all stops en route in the District of Columbia.
    In short you should be able to make the trip you described to me without the meter being restarted regardless of the direction of travel.”

    Mr. Nadler a high ranking congressman and Chairman of Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties who sees this outrageous, unconstitutional and ambiguous law that basically says that one can get into a D.C. taxicab and go from one end of the town to the other end with multiple stops on the way with unspecified waiting time and perhaps getting stuck in lots of traffic should not pay more than $19, regardless of when the meter reaches the $19 cap. This is nothing short of putting these drivers into slavery and it seems like no one in this country is willing to challenge this. Mr. Nadler not only did not get concerned about the legality of this law and did not try to challenge the D.C. officials about it, it seems like he has made copies of this email and kept it in his pocket, igored the meaning of en route and misused the cab drivers with it. Obviously in this case he has misused this rule even when his final destination was 180 degrees opposite his stop at the hotel, and it was not en route, so he could save whopping $3 on the back of a hard working cab driver. May I add that D.C. taxicab rates ($1.50/mile and $15 waiting time) are the lowest rates in the country, where the cost of living is one of the highest in the nation. On top of this, congressman Nadler even after the police was called to the site of this incident did not stay around for the police to arrive and he did not pay his $8 cab fare which is punishable by law. This, coming from a high ranking law maker is nothing but a slap in the face of our constitution, our democracy and our freedom. He is getting away with thinking and acting like he is above the law and better than the rest of us ordinary people. My question is who the heck do these people think they are? Do they think that they live a dictatorship country or are they trying to turn this country into one???
    The D.C. cab drivers in the past two years have had two strikes, several protests and numerous meetings and hearings with city council members and taxicab commissioners over the low rates and these unclear and unfair rules and regulations. They have asked the city officials to fix these problems, but time after time they have been ignored by city officials including mayor Adrian Fenty who claims that senator Carl Levin in an omnibus bill has given him a unilateral authority over taxicab industry to do what he sees fit. How could this be possible for a man (senator Levin) to tell another man (mayor Fenty) that I am giving you the power to do whatever you want without any kind of checks and balances, wow…. Ladies and gentlemen these kinds of things are taking place in Washington D.C., the beacon and throne of Democracy. If you are not outraged by now then you deserve to lose your freedom and democracy.

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  • Justuce

    July 26, 2010

    An Open Letter to Congressman Jerrold Nadler from the Taxicab Drivers of Washington, D.C.

    Dear Congressman Nadler:

    We write to share our concerns about your response to the recent incident at the Channel Inn Hotel in which you were caught in a heated argument with Mr. Abraham Habteab, a taxicab driver who sits on one of our boards, regarding the payment of a fare. We want to make it clear to you that the regulations are in fact in Mr. Habteab’s favor, contrary to the outrageously conflicting interpretations of the Chair of the Commission since October of last year.

    The regulations clearly state that stops are only allowed when they are made en route, i.e., on the way, or in the same general direction as the final destination if a passenger should expect that they will be included in a single fare. The frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the Commission web site also make it clear that for a fare to include stops, the trip must be in one direction. The route you requested entailed a doubling back in the opposite direction.

    A passenger must state his or her final destination upon entering the cab if he or she wants stops to be included in a single fare. Mr. Habteab says that he did not know that you would be going to the Hill until you reached the driveway of the hotel. This appears to be corroborated by your own admission that the argument began at the hotel. What is determinative in this case is the driver’s record or “manifest.” Mr. Habteab’s manifest reflects that the original stated destination was the hotel, not the Hill, and that manifest was immediately submitted to the police department.

    This entire confusion was caused by and is first and foremost the responsibility of the Chair of the Commission who sent you an e-mail in response to an inquiry about the regulations back in October of 2009. The e-mail gave an erroneous interpretation of the regulations, advising you that you could make stops and require a driver to keep the meter running, regardless of direction. Apparently, you carried this e-mail with you.

    At a D.C. Taxicab Commission hearing on January 13, it was Mr. Habteab himself who asked, on behalf of drivers, a question regarding fares that include stops. His concern, and that of many other drivers, was that a passenger could keep asking for stops regardless of whether the meter had reached the $19 cap that the City imposes on all fares. That unconstitutional cap forces drivers, oft small minority businessmen and women, to provide free transportation services once the meter strikes $19. No other city in the world has such a cap. In the Commission minutes, you will see that both the Chair and the General Counsel affirmed that a driver could restart a meter when a stop is not en route to the final destination. The Chair clearly stated that stops must be in the course of a “one-way trip.” The General Counsel went so far as to say that the meter could be restarted upon reaching the initial destination.

    Therefore, it is inherently unfair, if not slanderous, to say in the press that Mr. Habteab “ignored” the regulations when in fact he had asked specifically about this regulation in a public hearing of the Commission. Furthermore, as you know, and as his phone records demonstrate, he called the Commission on the spot to clarify the regulations and was told that his interpretation was correct, and that he could restart the meter.

    No one will dispute that you violated the law when you walked away and did not pay the fare. The law required the fare to be paid and that you request a receipt and file a complaint if you felt that your rights as a passenger had been violated. A police investigation is now in process, and Mr. Habteab intends to press charges unless he receives a public apology and your help in confronting the Commission for its ineptitude and refusal to give drivers a voice in their own industry. If the drivers had had an opportunity to help craft and finalize the regulations which govern transport in the District, this situation would not have occurred. But, in clear violation of the DC Taxicab Commission Establishment Act of 1985, there is not a single representative of the taxicab industry on the Taxicab Commission leading to outrageous violations of human and constitutional rights. There are supposed to be three representatives! In sum, if you want to present yourself as a hero in the press, we are asking that you make the right choice and become one.

    For the past two years, the Fenty administration has refused to give a seat on the Commission to a head of a driver’s association or a driver owned company, or an industry leader who has been a compelling public advocate for drivers. This runs afoul of the basic democratic principles of fairness, inclusion, and transparency. Last year, precisely when the Commission intended to vote on a rate increase that would bring DC taxicab fares into parity with fares in surrounding counties, the Mayor shut down the Commission for eight months, and a statutorily required rate study was stopped in its tracks, without explanation.

    Today we are asking for your help. Our industry is in shambles, and our families are sliding into poverty. D.C. has the lowest meter rate in the country. The Fenty administration turned the Taxicab Commission into an advisory body which makes suggestions and is no longer the true regulatory body it once was. The Mayor has maintained the $19 cap, refusing to implement a directive of the D.C. City Council, and has placed an illegal 5% cap on any fare increase, which amounts to no more than 5 cents per mile given the way our meters are calibrated. Yet drivers lost about 30% of their income in the transition to meters. He also reserves to himself the purported right to approve any surcharges (e.g., for fuel). Finally, he claims “emergency authority” over our industry though it is now two years since meters were implemented, refusing to revert complete regulatory authority back to the Commission where it belongs by statute. There is no question that he is in violation not only of the D.C. Taxicab Commission Establishment Act of 1985, but of the constitutional rights of drivers. He is also in violation of Home Rule Act Section 404(b) which grants the City Council the role of defining the powers of regulatory bodies. Finally, he is in violation of Articles 23 to 25 of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights which speak to fair working conditions, reasonable hours, and fair compensation. Unfortunately, you were caught in the crosshairs of the ineptitude and impotence of the Taxicab Commission and of the Mayor’s arrogance and cruelty to us and our families.

    Today we are asking for your help. There are three things you can do that will help to make us whole and bring something positive out of this unfortunate series of events. (1) Call for the resignation of the Chair. It was he, not you or Mr. Habteab, who has caused this confusion, though he had promised back in January, now six months ago, to resolve the question of proper interpretation of the regulations in question. We are completely dissatisfied with his performance as Chair of the Commission ever since Mayor Fenty came into power. (2) Hold or call for a public hearing on the administration’s non-compliance with the D.C. Taxicab Commission Establishment Act based on the Mayor’s claim of unilateral “emergency authority” over our industry now two years after meters were implemented. Regardless of what authority the Mayor had under the “Levin Act,” to use the administration’s own invalid expression, the directive which conditionally mandated meters, there is no “emergency” today. Congress unwittingly set the stage for rendering our Taxicab Commission dysfunctional, and it is Congress that should set things right. (3) Demand that the heads of our drivers’ associations or driver owned companies gain their rightful seats on the Commission, in compliance both with the letter and spirit of the law, so that we will finally have a voice in our own industry.

    We are hopeful to bring fair and healing closure to this matter, and we are grateful for your consideration.

    Signed,

    2 Drivers’ Associations and 7 Driver Owned Companies

  • http://E.BaltimoreforMayorofDC edward baltimore

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