Friday, May 2, 2008

DC Cabs

Washington D.C. taxis are switching to meters starting today. In case you find yourself wondering “How did they NOT have meters?” they used to use a zoned system. You were charged based on how many zones you crossed.

As a former resident of D.C., I can tell you, zones were a pain in the ass. You never had any idea if the price the cabbie charged you was accurate or not unless you had a GPS system with you and were tracking the exact route with an overlay of the zone map. Why did they have this funky zoned system for so long? Several reasons.

1. In case it’s never occurred to you, D.C. is not a state. People who live there have no representation in Congress and yet, technically speaking, they are governed by Congress. (D.C. license plates now carry the slogan “Taxation Without Representation.”) In recent decades, the city government has taken over some measure of control of the city, but even so the city council and mayor can only do so much without an act of Congress. This is seriously messed up, which you would know if you ever happened to live there.
2. The way the zones were drawn, congressmen got cheap cab fares for their most popular routes.

Now, since Congress had no incentive to change the system and ruin their sweet deal, and since Congress governs D.C., it never got changed. Somehow the city council found a workaround and instituted it themselves.

So now you can ride a cab in D.C. without secretly suspecting that the cabbie just made up a number for the fare when you got to your destination.

One step closer to D.C. statehood.

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