From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT]borderstan.com and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.
According to WTOP, beginning June 20 DC taxicab riders will be spared the fuel surcharge enacted over one year ago to compensate for high gas prices. The $1 per trip charge was imposed in March 2011 but will be suspended.
Officials will continue to monitor gas prices and change enforcement of the surcharge as they deem necessary, Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton said.
By Michelle Lancaster. You can follow her and let her know your news on Twitter @MichLancaster. Email her at michellel[AT]borderstan.com.
If you’ve lived in DC for more than two years, you have seen, and probably kvetched about, the great cab debate of the city.
Are there too many? Why don’t they take credit cards? They are so rude! No one picks me up from Adams Morgan; no one takes me home to Capitol Hill and on and on.
If you are somehow able get past these (valid) complaints, the fare and meter system become the next obvious flashpoint. That is, until you are assaulted by a cab driver. Then, as WJLA reports, things escalate beyond small talk and become part of a serious investigation.
Several riders allege assault, ranging from sexual to violent physical assault; all incidents reported are being investigated. Drivers retort they are more often the victim of drunk and/or belligerent passengers and receive no protection or recourse for such behavior.
DC is discussing changing its laws to more easily hold hearings or revoke licenses for cab drivers. For such egregious behavior, that’s appropriate. I hope that all – drivers and passengers – that are attacked or brutalized get their justice. But with no cameras and nothing but competing eyewitness testimony, how should DCTC determine what is justice and to whom it is owed?
The DC Taxicab Commission is out on the streets in vehicles — my cab the other day was stopped to instruct the driver to turn on the lights at dusk. Is this part of their jurisdiction and if so, are there enough vehicles out to prevent such violence?
Changing cabs to accept credits cards is easier than a full-scale shift in taxicab culture and etiquette, and that’s been a long, slow slog. So Borderstan readers, where does cab safety rate on the priority list for DC? Should cameras be added to all cabs or is that a privacy issue? How do we provide safe, efficient and speedy cab service — and how do we protect our drivers from violence and theft?
Ah the joys of the long weekend. The beginning of it’s great because you know the general fun of the standard weekend is going to last long. The end is great too because the following work week is a Monday-less, four-day walk to the next go around.
This MLK weekend had plenty going on from very competitive NFL playoff games (the march toward a Super Bowl XLII rematch continues) as well the welcoming of a new basketball power in L.A. However when it comes to a time like this, I am a big fan of the day trip to break up the weekend, and with a car you can easily put the district in the rearview.
Looking for history and nostalgia outside of DC, last Saturday my girlfriend and I made the easy one-hour drive south to Fredericksburg, Virginia. I had heard various reports that this was the “bit farther but just as nice” Old Town Alexandria and was worth a drive down 95. My advanced scouting was accurate as the town is a mix of pre-World War I homes and antique stores on every single corner (I kid you not). The attractions and small museums made for the perfect day trip as we spent around five hours there.
Highlights of our Fredericksburg Day Trip
How Many Antique Stores Can You Have? The answer for Fredericksburg is “not enough.” One after the other, all containing really old books, dated posters, and classic America stuff. The only one worth mentioning was a store called Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. It felt like a trip back to 1996, meaning it sold classic Nintendo, grunge rock on vinyl and funky leather jackets.
The Civil War Wasn’t Pretty. If that wasn’t clear to you during your high school civil war class, take a stroll to Fredericksburg and learn about the Civil War battle there. As it is a national historic landmark, there is plenty of background and a well funded museum, which comes fully loaded with a great educational video narrated by James Earl Jones (complete with historic re-enactments). It was at times a bit creepy walking around the battlefield knowing the gory details — similar to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania — but made for an interesting afternoon.
After checking out this battle, we then jumped in our car and took a great driving tour of both the greater battlefield there and the nearby Spotsylvania Court House Battle site. Both these battles included lots of key players such as General Burnside, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. Bottom line: Great experience for the history buffs in Borderstan.
I Hear the Food is Tasty. We only stopped at a delicious coffee shop famed for its espresso art but if you’re a bit classier than I, there are some fine dining options for you. I guess a Virgina foodie would be more help than me.
Owning a car in DC is the difference between being “limited by the Metro” to “where can we go this weekend?” If you are feeling that history vibe, especially Civil War, this is the trip for you.
What Really Grinds My Gears
This. DC cabs are bad enough and now that. Ugh
Links! Links! Ice Cold Links!
Borderstan welcomes Alden Leonard to its team of contributors. Alden helps cover local government and arts topics for Borderstan. He advocates for good causes by day and is an artist and arts supporter by night. Check out his paintings at Alden Leonard.
Recall of Gray, Brown in the Works
Local media was abuzz last week after activist Frederick Butler filed paperwork to recall Mayor Vincent Gray and City Council Chair Kwame Brown. But the process, which could bring about a recall election of the city’s highest elected officials, faces significant barriers. In order to even get on the ballot, Butler must furnish signatures from 10% of voters (about 45,000) to show that the recall has sufficient public support. To give some perspective, a mayoral candidate has to collect just 3,000 signatures. And did I mention this all has to happen in 180 days?
This high bar has stopped many would-be crusaders from attempting to achieve a recall, but not all: in fact, every DC Mayor except Walter Washington has had a recall attempt filed against him. Even so, the DC City Council recently debated lowering the signature requirement to 5%, but it remained at 10% in the final bill as passed by Brown’s Council. Brown offered no explanation for maintaining the high requirement, but Gray issued a response to the larger allegations facing him and the Council Chair. Defending his work as Mayor, Gray reminded voters that “DC is the most desirable place to live in the United States.”
I guess we can’t argue with him there, can we?
Troubles Deepen for Embattled Car Service
Shots have been fired in the battle between car service Uber and Ron Linton, Chairman of the DC Taxicab Commission. As we reported on Friday, Linton recently accused Uber, which allows users to arrange rides from off-duty luxury cars, of operating illegally in the District. Linton made good on his vow to take swift action against Uber, arranging a sting Friday morning that resulted in an Uber driver receiving two costly citations and having his car impounded for the weekend.
Uber responded robustly to Linton’s actions with statements affirming its compliance with DC regulations. “We’ve dotted our i’s,” insisted DC manager Rachel Holt. But the smartphone-powered service also outsourced much of the fight to its tech-savvy clientele, whose enthusiasm for Uber drive its success. In a blog post titled “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Uberness: @Uber_DC needs YOU!”, Uber calls upon its wildly loyal fans to make the Taxicab Commission hear their voices.
Mr. Linton, batten down the hatches.
Artist Exodus from DC: The Unseen Premiums of Swank Neighborhoods
With this month’s closing of one of DC’s last remaining artist havens, DCentric raises the question of whether the District’s high rent and rapid gentrification are stifling its creative residents. Gold Leaf Studio at 4th and I Streets, which has been a major creative hub since it opened over a decade ago, will close its doors in the next few weeks due to rising rent. Area art enthusiasts are bemoaning the close, saying it is symbolic of a greater creative exodus to the more affordable suburbs.
We all know living in a premium neighborhood comes at a high price, but is this hidden extra cost worth it?
14th & U Boutiques Make National Media Splash
For the uninitiated into the world of women’s magazines, Lucky is a magazine that bills itself as the “magazine about shopping and style.” In their most recent issue, the publication featured a shopping guide for DC. As Washingtonian notes, the boutiques on 14th and U Streets NW got decent ink. They are curious as to what you think got left off the list, I am curious as to why Elizabeth Banks agreed to be photographed in that outfit. What are those Swan Lake like cutouts? If you missed our series on the perfect holiday outfit (for ladies), check out New Year’s Eve is Coming: Still Looking for the Perfect Outfit?
When is a Teahouse More than a Tea Shop?
Teaism is a great tea shop that happens to have delicious bento box lunches and salty oat cookies. It is apparently also the front line of a polite but heated feud between Tamils and Sinhalese from Sri Lanka. As the The Washington Post points out, while the city is a hotbed of public protests and demonstrations, it is also a home for many that must navigate political waters while shopping and drinking tea. The piece goes further into the number of foreign expatriates that practice advocacy and avoidance in the hopes of political goals at home and relative peace in their adopted home.
Cabdrivers Hate New Service, Uber
TBD reports that Uber was among the list of complaints aired at the Taxicab Commission meeting recently. Uber bills itself as “everyone’s private driver” and uses smartphones to reserve and snag a ride with their fleet. So is it a fancy cab service operating illegally, or is it a worthy competitor? I suppose the answer could be both.
Commissioner Linton declared they were operating illegally and without a contract; Uber says they are a private booking service, ergo not a cab service and entered into operations in DC after many discussions about their legality with policymakers. While the legal issues are hashed out, we can focus on the benefits. Greater Greater Washington penned a little love note to the service and the competition they bring to DC. Have you used them? Are they competition or just an upscale alternative for those who thumb their noses as taxicabs as transportation for commoners?
Washington City Paper shared the news of the vote on Tuesday. The Commission kept the base rate, or what you start off as a minimum fare, at $3 but increased the per mile rate by 65 cents.
Before you complain too much, note that the additional passenger surcharge is eliminated and taxicab modernization was also part of the vote. I have a hard time finding too much fault with the decision after reviewing the rates of Arlington County cabs.
May I also suggest that some of you that think all cab drivers are excessively rude and disingenuous attempt to have a conversation, a real chat, with your cab driver as a real person working for a living, just like you? I know it doesn’t always fix everything, but as my man Otis would say, you gotta try a little tenderness.