Due to techinical difficulties the live program wasn’t recorded. This is a rebroadcast.
DC Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton appears to have played a role in crafting and altering what was said to be an independent petition for a fare increase. Nicholas Maxwell, a DC cab driver, told TheFightBack in its inaugural broadcast on We Act Radio 1480 AM, “The entire direction [for my petition] was basically… prompted by Linton.” Maxwell said Linton instructed him to remove a sentence describing the chairman’s role in the effort. “Take that out,” Maxwell said Linton told him. “Don’t make it look to the people that we’re the ones that are pushing this out there.”
As city official push for a rapid overhaul of DC’s taxicab industry, drivers are worried they’ll be forced out of business. The proposed changes “may be costly for drivers,” Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who’s leading the reform effort, told NewsChannel 8′s Bruce DePuyt on Friday. Cheh told the Washington Post her effort is part of a “quid pro quo,” whereby in exchange for drivers receiving substantially higher fares, they have to make changes.
Taxi fares, however, aren’t determined by Cheh and the Council, but by the Taxicab Commission. It may not be a coincidence that the Commission is considering a (so-called) fare increase at the same time Cheh rolls out her omnibus taxi reform legislation. Maxwell said the Commission gave him an Oct. 28 deadline to submit his petition. “I think they wanted the process to be expedited,” he said.
Cheh is scheduled to hold a hearing on her reform efforts on Jan. 30. And this Wednesday at 10 a.m. at One Judiciary Square at 441 4th St, NW, the Commission has scheduled a hearing on its proposal to raise DC’s taxi meter rate from $1.50 per mile, one of the lowest in the country, to $2.16 per mile.
It should be noted that many drivers feel their poor financial condition will not be improved upon by the proposed (so-called) fare increase because it calls for the removal of the additional passenger fee, the extra bag surcharge and other sources of driver income. “They call it a fare increase. It is not,” said taxi leader Haimanot Bizuayehu.
Bizuayehu, who’s a board member of The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers, is expected to testify at Wednesday’s hearing, which may draw a large number of drivers. “It is very, very, very troubling to us the way they’re going on both sides, on the Taxicab Commission and the City Council,” he told TheFightBack. They are making “it hard for us to make a living, to send our kids to school, to feed our families.”