So, while we were out, Mayor Fenty basically all but assured that he will go down in history of some-sort of DC Mayoral combination of Harriet Tubman, FDR and Batman (or maybe just Hawkman...don't want to oversell it) by doing something that everyone in their right mind has wanted done to Washington since I was knee-high to something that was slightly taller than a younger version of me--abolish the insipid taxi cab zone system, in favor of meters, which is what the rest of goddamned modern world uses in taxis. What could Fenty possibly do to not go down in history favorably? Had George W. Bush found a way to rid the city of the cursed zones, we'd all be saying "SHUT THE HELL UP, poltergeists of our war dead! It now doesn't cost me a half-dozen different amounts to go from Dupont to Silver Spring! ZOMGS! Bush for Nobel Peace Prize! Bush for King of the Ocean!"
Virtually everyone agrees that this is a good idea. It's one of the few things that even some of our areas more poo-poo bedecked diptards think is a good idea. I had to laugh at some of the coverage of it though. One local FOX news teaser put it like this, "With the stroke of a pen, Mayor Adrian Fenty changes one of DC's longstanding regulations." Such melodrama! You'd think the Mayor was invalidating the Magna Carta or something.
Naturally, the cabbies are all aggrieved that their precious, incomprehensible zone system has been taken from them. Apparently, a city-wide taxi strike is planned for Halloween night, but seeing as the zone system has a negligible level of public support, it looks as if the cabbies will be doing little more than hurting their own bottom line. The cabbies, from what I gather, are trying to make a case that the meter system will undermine their traditions of being independent businessmen, but it seems a little too late to be encouraging potential riders to make those sorts of decisions. I haven't the faintest clue why the meter system precludes the current ownership model, and I think Matt hits the nail right on the head when he says:
In DC, by contrast, it's much cheaper and easier to get a cab up and running so they're mostly owner-operated. Tadesse and many other cab drivers feel that letting the mayor impose the meter will somehow undue this system. But it's not clear exactly why they think that, so it's hard to know what kind of policies could assuage those fears while simultaneously letting us enjoy the bounty of the meter.
All, too true, and anyway, I ask you: I'm supposed to get wistful for their lost business traditions when those traditions contained the ever-present, never-properly-defused perception that the very system they're asking me to support the retention of was nothing more than a convenient way to obfuscate travel costs and scam the customers? Sorry, no dice. The cab drivers have had ample opportunity to combat the poor perception of the zone system, years to make its vagaries clear and to breed a consumer base amenable to their particular wants and needs. But they sat on their ass, living large on the zone system, and have found themselves at the endgame without having built a foundation of customer loyalty and trust. Whose fault is that?
I'm looking forward to seeing a meter in cabs throughout the city. You should be too!