City Desk

Taxicab Commission Meeting Turns Chaotic, so Chairman Cancels it


D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton adjourned the commission's monthly meeting earlier today after about an hour as hundreds of cab drivers loudly jeered him—the latest sign that the acrimonious relationship between taxi drivers and the city won't be healed anytime soon.

"This is [Linton's] attitude," said Taxicab Commissioner Stanley Tapscott, who's been a driver for more than 50 years. "He's got a belligerent, nasty attitude."

Linton called off the meeting during the lengthy public comments period, for which speakers are required to bring written testimony because, as one commissioner put, the "language barrier" can make it hard for the commission to understand the drivers.

The drivers largely spoke out against the new modernization requirements, which include mandatory dome lights and credit card readers—and they invariably received a loud applause from the audience of cab drivers. Linton warned that if the crowd continued to react to the speakers, he would adjourn the meeting.

"This is our Dred Scott decision," cab driver Nathan Price said to a standing ovation, implying that the expansive compliance required of cab drivers threatened to make them lesser citizens. "You've targeted us, it's time for us as drivers to turn the table and target you."

All the while, a group of cab drivers protested outside the One Judiciary Square building, rendering nearly inaudible many of the speeches inside the building. Organized by the Teamsters, cab drivers also protested before the meeting.

Later in the public comments period, Linton relayed a bad experience that a frequent rider sent to the commission. The cab, Linton said, smelled of smoke and was freezing. The audience booed, and Linton said this "may be why you have problems." He then abruptly canceled the meeting.

Update, 2:06 p.m.: Taxicab Commission spokesman Neville Waters says the meeting was near adjournment when the chairman ended it. "I was delighted that drivers want to be engaged," he says. "But on some level it is frustrating that they are engaging now, and not a year ago, or two years ago."

Photo by Perry Stein

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  • Typical DC BS

    Screw the cabbies. Most of the cabs are in bad shape and desperately need to be replaced. Requiring them to have credit card readers and dome lights - wow, what an inconvenience for the poor cabbies. Guess they need to learn it's not all about them, but about the CUSTOMERS.

  • eos

    It sucks that the card readers aren't paying them properly and that should be fixed asap. But seriously? There are some great cabbies out there, but there are also some HORRIBLE ones. Establish a damn floor for behavior and maintenance. You shouldn't get a contact high by getting into a damn cab.

  • SEis4ME

    Yeah, cabbies need to stop whining and get the damn reader/lights instead of this mishmash we currently have.

  • Ashley

    Agree completely, Typical DC BS. We avoid taking DC cabs like the plague. The majority of the time we have to direct the cab driver to our destination - isn't it your job to, you know, drive people places? Shouldn't you know the city? Also it's insanely expensive and most of the time you can't pay with a card, which is highly inconvenient. Also cabs have picked me up and, after I've already gotten in and told them where I'm going, have dropped me ON THE CURB late at night in some random place because where I'm going "wasn't on my way". Wtf? On your way to where? You're driving around looking for fares. Cabs also refuse people all the time because they don't want to drive to wherever the person is going. Seriously? Isn't it your job to drive people wherever they want to go? I could go on and on and on. DC cabs are a ripoff and the drivers are shit. Glad the city is finally stepping up and making them make improvements.

  • Ward-8

    Cabbies, simple solution if you don't want to comply, get the hell out of the cab driving business, there is no regulation that mandates you drive a cab. DC currently have too many dam cabs as it is.

  • S.E.

    If you've received rude/unfair treatment from a cab driver then report them. While I agree with some of the improvements mandated, I don't understand why the City gets to collect $0.25 for every credit card transaction.

  • Kirstos

    "Screw cab drivers,get the hell out of cab driving business if you don't like like it etc..."
    I am glad that this is not the attitude of most Americans but some of the comments above are so ignorant and arrogant. Some of you people think you live in a banana republic. This is the great United States, Welcome, even if you were born here you act like you were born in the some middle eastern country. Your racist comments are useless.
    I am a DC taxi driver. I love driving taxi, and I give great service to my customers. After serving in the US Marines, this is a job I found fit for me temporarily. Travelling through out the US I have seen and am able to compare and contrast the DC taxi system.
    The problem in DC is that there is incompetent taxi cab commission and corrupt system. While there is a long list of problems I will mention few. DCTC hack inspectors are corrupt and they allow many illegal taxi drivers from VA and MD to roam the streets of DC. The taxis look like the legal one's. Every thing that happens in the illegal taxi is blamed on DC drivers. Of course in any business there is no 100% good but over all DC drivers are great.
    DC taxi customers have no idea about the abuse that is committed on taxi drivers by the city inspectors. Just recently there was a situation where a taxi driver was ticketed $2,000 and later investigation by the cabbie's lawyer shows that the inspector is a repeated felon. DCTC said didn't have knowledge about it.
    If an illegal driver is allowed to roam the city and if a legal driver is towed for minor infraction there is some thing that needs to be corrected. As a result of the economic situation there are many companies both in state and out of states that want to come into the business and that is also another corruption inviting situation.
    while taxi dome lights any where in the US are the same, DC is forced to have a dome light that is unique. While we could buy it $49.99 online we were forced to buy it from companies between $450 and $500. How many of you leaving this nasty comments can afford getting payed every 2 or 3 months? Yes the credit card companies are not paying on time. If you think this is fair, you are a bigot and you should campaign not for the removal of taxi drivers from their jobs but from the country and be open about your racism. In my taxi driving experience I know the type of people who leave such comments are not the successful people but those who are angry because their life is screwed up because of drug or those who can't do better job than waiting on table and stuff like that. Those are the one's that pay attention to what type of food the cabbies eat or drink. I am an avid social media person and just recently I read a tweet that said "why are this idiot cab drivers complaining, they drink coffee at starbucks and eat at chipotle", this is a typical ignorance and arrogance.
    We serve you and we don't pump gas into our body, we need food, coffee etc... like you. It isn't like we are driving ferrari that you have to be jealous. We bust our balls between 10 and 14 hours to make ends meet at the same time tolerating some of you puke from over drinking and your very inappropriate sexual acts behind the seat. Yes we are rude when we tell you sir/mom you can't do that in a cab. Those are the same people who complain about taxi drivers rudeness because they couldn't use the back seat like a hotel. Of course I will tell you no you can't do any think more than kissing in the cab and you are the same person who slam my door for a tip and call me names and write nasty stuff about the great drivers in DC. Just a reminder, it is the 21st century and slavery is over. Adjust your attitude. Treat your cabbie properly, if you were raised properly. We love you and we love this country but we can't be slaves to your nasty personalities. Just because you think you are better that doesn't mean you are better. Some of us are way better educated than you. Some of us have served this country in the way you could never imagine. Stop the illusion of "I am better than this cabbie". I could be with multiple degrees, travelled the world over, served this great country much better than you. I may act dumb in the cab to suit your ego but you could get depressed when you learn what I achieved in life; therefore, stop embarrasing your self and treat your cabbie humanely.

  • Corky

    Screw these rotten cabbies in DC!! I have ZERO SYMPATHY for them. Anypone who has ever lived in or visited another city knows that the cabbies in DC are the absolute worst. If they don't want to comply with very minimal rules and regulations (compared to most other busineses) then they need to get out of the business and let someone who knows how to provide cusotmer service (and drive!) do the job.

  • Corky

    And before some Cabbie goes calling people racist, you need to check yourselves. Do you avoid picking up Black people and people you think are going to Anacostia or far Northeast? Huh? The foreign born cabbies are the biggest bigots on the road! How dare you lecture anyone about racism!!

  • Kirstos

    Right there you are manifesting your bigotry. You don't really deserve a reply but I will be kind to give you one. How could you generalize all foreign drivers. Would it be fair for me say all black people kill, rob and run with out paying their cabbies just because a few do. If you don't like to be stereo typed and profiled, you should not be doing the same.
    There is no cab driver that doesn't like to make money. When a taxi driver is scared to drive you to a dangerous part of the city, it is because he has been robbed, beaten or was never paid before. There is no black or white dollar. There is only green dollar. I for one have lived in very dangerous parts of the world as a Marine and am less likely to be intimidated by potential robber, but you have cab drivers who have 3 or 4 kids at home scared to pick some one that they believe has no value to a human life. I agree those type of people should never be in the business. Again, why do you think that many blacks who complain about taxi drivers making so much money do not do this dangerous and dirty business, it is because they don't want to risk their life; therefore, this is something that can be resolved through law enforcement efforts and cab drivers protection. For example, the corrupt DCTC has made cab drivers change a new dome light that costs $500 dollars only to benefit its cronies. The same dome light costs online $49.00 dollars but cabbies can't buy that one. DCTC has taken away the dome light with protection that has 911 alert light as a result of corruption. I can swallow my pride and be your slave temporarily but not to the extent of risking my life. If you look suspicious, drunk and agressive I will let you have my cab. This is not about discrimination. You may be in that phobia but that is totally out the reality. Don't believe you are entitled to everything. Again, it is just the few of you who have no common sense. Moat people are wonderful. If you want more lecture, I am willing to give it to you.

  • Ephrem

    I am one of many DC Cab drivers who attended the meeting with the Taxi Commissioner. The Taxi Commissioner's response to the questions was intended for a public relation gymics, and face saving campaign , but not fact finding. The Taxi Commissioner ignored the Taxi Drivers grievance and concern . I think it is a lost opportunity for the Commissioner in finding a lasting solution for the stalemate. The Cab drivers concern is legitimate that we are just asking a fair and even playing field. I do believe with the DC Taxi Teamster on board the grievance of all DC Cab drivers will come from back burner to front burner. We will prevail.

  • Jones

    Anyone of you complainers ever talk to the person driving you around the city? It is a pretty hard job (talk to them: you will find out!). Show a little sympathy rather than the all-too-typical rage towards anyone in the service sector who dares complain! And if you insist, please post your occupation so we can all vent our frustration at how poorly you are performing your job!

  • Mrs. D

    Kristos, I do have sympathy for some of what you express. I have been approached by illegal hacks while trying to hail a cab, and if they don't have a meter and DCTC sticker, I tell them to bug off. I believe this is both courtesy to not undercut the market AND FOR MY OWN SAFETY. I care not where my driver may have come here from, and if I ask them to repeat themselves when they say something, it's not necessarily due to an accent, but it may be. I'm sorry, but that's just the way of the world. I have been asked to repeat myself in foreign countries because my accent sucks, and I don't consider it a slight, just a misunderstanding.

    That said, I have seen or experienced what many of the other commenters have noted. I have been refused service or ordered out of the cab because the driver didn't like my destination (even when I lived in a safe, pleasant, and close-to-downtown part of Capitol Hill). I have had to beg a driver to turn the heat or AC on so that I'm not miserable. I have had to whip out my own phone and order up driving directions to my destination because the driver had no clue where they were going, in a city that, honestly, isn't all that big. And I have worried for my safety due to both poorly-maintained cars and reckless driving.

    In all honesty, given these issues, you should welcome many of these changes. The introduction of meters and DCTC stickers allowed me to more easily differentiate between legal cabs and illegal hacks. The color scheme and new dome light (which, truth be told, I'm not a humongous fan of since I find them hard to read from a distance) further this differentiation. Credit card readers allow you to have less cash on hand, improving your safety, and also allow people to hail any cab and get where they're going, rather than having to go through selected services that guarantee the ability to use a card. I understand there's an expense related to that, but lobbying for a surcharge or general slight increase in rates, rather than to prevent the implementation, would be better received.

    Just food for thought, today I took UberX to and from a far-afield errand I had to run. The drivers both asked me when I got in if the temperature in the car was okay with me. Both asked me if I had a preferred route to my destination, but knew how to get there when I said I didn't. Both drove sanely, in cars that were in good shape. You know what I've noticed most about Ubers (of all varieties)? The passenger front seat is usually pushed as far forward as possible, giving the passenger the most leg room possible. Such a small thing (so unnecessary for me standing only 5'5), but it shows SO CLEARLY that the drivers care about their customers. You may well be one of the "good guys" - the cabbie I feel I'm lucky to have randomly hailed because the car is clean, safe, and comfortable and the ride is safe and stress-free - but you'd have to be wearing blinders to not recognize the issues that taxi passengers in DC have long suffered. If taking a taxi in DC were sunshine and rainbows, Uber would occupy a niche market of demanding jerks who couldn't POSSIBLY ride in a cab like all those commoners. Instead, it's been a resounding success. Yes, that's because we're entitled - entitled to a safe ride in a respectable car with minimal stress. That's something that a LARGE number of cabbies in DC have shown themselves unwilling to provide to this point.

  • Mrs. D

    And, d'oh, meant to mention this...the crowning glory of DC cab ridiculousness. I stepped out of my office one day to find a friend trying to hail a cab. He's a brown (not even black) man, I'm a white woman. Several cabs, dome lights all lit up, passed him by, mid-day, him in a suit trying to get to a meeting. I told him to stand back on the sidewalk, stepped to the curb, dressed in my Friday best (jeans and a blouse), and had a cab at the curb in under 30 seconds. When he walked past me and got in, alone, the cabbie was like "hey, wait, I thought I was driving you...who is this guy?" I just smirked into the front window and said "this is my friend who makes 3 times what I do...make sure he gets to his meeting safe, okay?" While the cabbie didn't seem happy with the arrangement, my friend reported that he did drive him to his meeting, grumbling under his breath the whole time. Shame, my friend is a generous guy, good tipper in general. I'm sure any cabbie who didn't grumble about driving a AH...OMG...NON-WHITE businessman to a meeting would have gotten a pretty decent tip.

  • kirstos

    IMrs. D
    I agree with your fair assessment and you sound like a sensible person. Most of the problem Iis the result of DCTC's corrupt and incompetent operation.
    I have listed some of the problems with DCTC in my privious comment. I have always liked accepting credit cards and it is more income for cabbies. The implementaion and restrictions of choices is the problem. There are issues that customers are not able to understand. Probably many won't because it is very complicated. To simply put it, corruption has been the hurdle for improvement and it is still going on.

  • nick

    I have read all the comments,I must say ,if Europeans hadn't troubled our peaceful primitive way of life ,we wouldn't have been in this terrible condition. We could have used our donkeys horses mules. This might be irrelevant ,but I am just pointing out the root of the problem. They brought slaves,when they were freed no one took were there and we are here .. long live usa.

  • kirstos

    I wouldn't go so far as blaming slavery but I am sick and tired of the few who blame discrimination instead of correcting their erroneous and dangerously criminal personality.

  • LoganRes

    Kirstos, I personally believe that the new car colors, dome lights, and credit card machines will make taking a cab so much easier and you will get more customers. I've avoided taking cabs because I do not ever carry cash. I will be a frequent cab customer when I see a sea of red cars with dome lights passing by and knowing that I can whip out my Visa to pay. And, I will tip generously any cab driver who drives safely and is courteous. Tell your fellow cabbies to embrace these changes and work with the commission to correct the grievances that we, the non cab driving public are not privy to.

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  • Typical DC BS


    Are you being sarcastic or serious? Cause if you're serious, you have major problems.

  • Saywhat14

    Ron Linton is carrying the Mayor's water period.

  • Corky

    Kirstos--I don't need your damn lecture and couldn't care less about your having been a Marine. If you can't follow the rules and the LAWS of DC, then get out of the business. We don't need you. I am not nor have I ever been a criminal. I make well in to the 6 figures and will not accept some jerk fresh off the boat in this country assuming I am a criminal. I've lived in DC all my life and when the taxi drivers were majority NATIVE BORN AFRICAN-AMERICANS, I never had problems getting a cab anywhere. So, yes I am stereotyping you foreign cab drivers because you are a bunch of bigots. I hope you all go out of business.

  • Grophusharris

    Kirstos-A couple of things. The first is a quote from Harvard economist Henry Rosovsky: "Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts". Another is something a fellow cab driver keeps telling me, but I, for some reason, simply refuse to hear: "You're trying to be reasonable with unreasonable people; ya' kain't do that." Finally, something of my own: "It will NEVER cease to amaze me the lengths to which people will go to defend hypocrisy and ignorance".

    Our buddy, Corky, here, is a shining example of the last. He not only opens with bigotted and profiling statements, but also he insists on his right to continue to do so. And he reminds us of how much better than us he is with his alleged six figure salary. But then, you must remember, EVERYONE on the internet has a six figure salary, a supermodel wife of girlfriend and drives some imported automobile that costs at least eighty thousand dollars. Yup, ol' Corkster resents getting profiled but insists on his right to do so.
    Oh, and Mr. Corky, I am American born, speak English, bathe daily, wear clean underwear, and live in Upper Northeast DC. I pay my taxes and carry my neighbours all the time as well as the other residents of this City and those who do business here.

    I have accepted cards since 1998. I use Uber, Hail-O, Mytaxi e-Hails as well as my own company's "dispatch" (I call it that for lack of anything else to call it; you really need a human being to dispatch: a satellite and a computer do NOT dispatch). The reason I AIN'T picking you up is because I have a call. You know, that ON CALL sign that is both on the dashboard (and in my cab, propped up) and now on the top light. You know, those signs to which you never pay any attention because paying attention to those signs might conflict with your preconceived notions that all cab drivers are Klansmen or (in the case of many of the foreign born) Klan-with-a-Tan. I keep two OFF DUTY signs propped up on my dashboard when I am on the way home, in addition to the OFF DUTY on the top light. But you ignore those too, because paying attention to them might conflict with those same pre-conceived notions.

    When you approach me at Brentwood Giant or Costco, AFTER I have parked my cab and am out of it, I am not refusing to drive you because I am a Grand Dragon. I am declining to drive you 1) because my cab is clearly marked OFF DUTY, 2) my hamburger spoils and my ice cream melts, too and 3) current rules prohibit me from asking you your destination. On #3, if you were going just up the street, I could drive you, but if you are going from Brentwood Giant to Anacostia or Chevy Chase, that is a little bit out of my way.

    New York City has some rules that allow drivers to take on passengers when OFF DUTY (Yes, you can get from Manhattan to Queens, IF it is shift-change time). The conditions are strictly defined and documentation is required. It would take quite a bit to get that allowed here.


    I see that I have been censored. Whassamatta ShirtyPaper? Can not stand the idea of intelligent disagreement? I did not even use any foul language.

  • Perry Stein

    Apologies, missed your original comment when I was moderating them. It's approved now.

  • Mad Cabbie

    Corky, aren't you the brother who robbed me a couple of years ago? I didn't know you can make six figures knocking off cab drivers!

  • http://N/A Jamila

    This whole thing about cab drivers in the District driving bad cabs should be on the laps of the District Government, they employed the third rated executives with third rated intelligence that provided the District with third rated regulations that resulted in a third world cab system, did you all think about that?
    With reference to not-picking-up black folks, we have black male senior citizens, we have senior black female citizens, we have young black females, we have young black females with children all of whom are being picked up except the young black male, because the young black boys are the ones that attacks cab drivers; they wait all night between cars and between buildings with rocks in their hands to smash our windows and windshields and the cab drivers are responsible to replace them, all those drivers that were stabbed and shot had to pay their medical bills with no insurance despite we pay $48.00 per week for insurance which covers only the passengers.
    Every time a cab driver is stabbed or shot or killed, it is in the cab, how valid is your argument that blacks are not being picked up? next time when they have their children, give them to the Latinos to raise, because we do not have any problem with the Latinos except the young black male which is all over the country. Get your facts straight next time. I am happy that cab drivers finally decided not to put their lives in harms way.

  • http://N/A Jamila

    Talking about credit cards, I have been using credit cards since 2008 and the Chairman talks like it is a new toy for Johnny, if he wanted drivers to have the ability to accept credit cards all he had to do was to establish the date certain that he wanted the card issue be implemented and the drivers will go to their various banking institutions and signed up, but he did not want that,because the banks will not take $15.00 per week from every driver and send it to the commission and will not take .25 per trip from every driver and also send it to the commission, so he enlisted come companies that will extort money from the drivers, it so happened that the companies he enlisted were not able to handle the influx of drivers with such a short notice. He did not say that to the public instead he informed the public that the drivers were fighting against modernization and the gullible public could not see through the smoke screen.