D.C. Cabbies Refusing Va. Fares

by ARLnow.com March 30, 2011 at 11:24 am 8,825 93 Comments

Update at 11:35 a.m. — As this story was being written, NBC4’s Tom Sherwood reported on Twitter that the D.C. fuel surcharge will now apply to both in-city and out-of-town trips.

New fuel surcharge rules in the District are giving cabbies another reason to refuse Virginia fares.

Anybody who’s ever tried to take a cab from the District to Arlington late at night or on a holiday knows that D.C. cabbies do not like driving into Virginia. It’s more lucrative for cab drivers to make frequent short trips around the District than to make a longer trip to Virginia, only to have to drive back to D.C. on unpaid time.

Now add another disincentive for taking Virginia fares. A new fuel surcharge allows D.C. cab drivers to charge an extra $1 per trip, but only for trips inside the District. Trips that start or end in Virginia or Maryland are not subject to the surcharge, which is set to expire on July 25.

We’ve heard reports that some cab drivers have been refusing Virginia fares since the surcharge went into effect on Monday.

Crystal City resident David Hyde says his wife had trouble catching a cab from George Washington University Hospital to their apartment yesterday morning.

“Three different cabs refused to take her after they rolled down the window and heard her destination,” he said. “I assume this is because they don’t get the fuel surcharge for Virginia trips.”

It is against D.C. taxi regulations for a cab driver to refuse a fare due to their destination.

  • Bard

    Any experienced cab patron from the Commonwealth will tell you to get in the cab before you tell the cabbie where you’re going. He can’t refuse the fare, so it’s your right.

    • borf

      I was just going to say that too.

    • Dan

      That, and tip well! DC cabs are still way cheaper than Va. cabs.

      • Lou

        Before DC cabs had meters the best way to go about it was to just tell the guy you know it sucks to go to Virginia, and then negotiate a fare right there. Probably highly illegal and a little expensive, but you take care of the driver and he takes care of you. Plus, if you’re going anywhere near a bar on a busy night, chances are they are going to steal a fare going back into DC.

        • Clarendude

          Yes, those were the good ole days! One thing they absolutely did not like was playing one cab off another. Once we were negotiating with one guy and another cabbie hailed us over and gave us a better deal and the first cabbie came after his cab with a tire iron while our new bargain cabbie drove away with us laughing. That was back in the hardcore days (mid 80’s). Young and stupid.

          • Arlington, Northside

            Yeah, but in the mid-80’s no one came into DC except to hit Georgetown or the old 9:30Club. Otherwise NO ONE went downtown after 6pm.

        • Bard

          I don’t know. I sort of enjoyed the negotiating, and dates liked the take-charge aspect, but it was often a major pain in the ass to find a guy who wasn’t looking to price gouge at closing time. For example, from North Highlands to the Black Cat on a Virginia meter was usually $12-13; on the way back the DC guys would ask for $15-20 and up. I definitely prefer the meters — on the average you pay less, and as long as you’re willing to hop in without telling the guy where you’re going, no one’s going to turn you away.

        • D

          Do it all the time, just give them an extra 5 up front!

    • Ernie

      this sometimes works but they will often drive off if you insist on getting in before saying a destination, especially if you’re downtown on the weekends.

    • Society


      Never give your destination until you get into a cab and avoid the rolling down of the front passenger window thing.

    • NPGMBR

      I don’t bother with DC cabs at all. I just call Red Top because they are reliable, safe, clean and have vehicles less than 10 years old.

      • jan

        Me, too, for the past 40 years.

  • steve

    I posted about this on WTOP’s website and people attacked me left and right for suggesting that cabbies would refuse to take people to VA.

    • wat

      that happened to me as well, right here on arlnow just a few months back.

      • No one attacked you. QUIT LYING!

  • Ray

    Not exactly related to this, but I saw an Arlington Red Top Cab get pulled over in DC last night after picking up a passenger (I believe only DC cabs can crusie for fares in DC). Maybe the word was out on the street that DC cabs weren’t taking people to Arlington.

    • Lou

      This is true, Virginia cabs can not pick up people in DC who try to hail them, but you are allowed to call dispatch and have them send a Virginia cab to DC to pick you up.

      • CW

        Interesting…why in the world, then, would both cabbie and passenger just not lie and say this was the case? Seems like an easy out to me.

        • Thes

          At least two ways: 1) police sting operation (Arlington does this to nail DC cabs in Arlington), or 2) direct observation of the patron waving at multiple cabs before the one that picks them up.

          • CW

            True, true. The real explanation then, in either case, being “police officer with too much down time”.

  • anotherlocal

    I’ve had a cab driver claim to not know where Arlington is just to avoid going there! My destination was a mere 3 miles from where I was hailing, too. Next time I’m going to just get in the cab before I tell the driver my destination…good to know it’s illegal for them to refuse – thanks ARLnow!

    • Bard

      I’ve only had a guy refuse once after I was in the cab, and I didn’t get out of the cab for a good 2-3 minutes, just to make a point and waste his money. Every other time I’ve gotten in the cab before mentioning the destination the cabbie has taken me where I wanted to go. If they do so politely and professionally then I tip them very well.

    • Aaron

      I’ve twice had DC cabbies at Union Station claim not to know where Virginia is. You know, that place on the other side of the river, where the airports are.

      Sadly, unless something has changed, the VA dispatchers have always seemed reluctant to send a cab into the District to bring a citizen back to civilization.

      • Kathy

        I’ve had great success with calling Red Top to come pick me up in G’town. It works I think because if a RT cab has just brought someone into the city, they can get the call from dispatch to pick someone up in DC. I’ve never waited more than 15 minutes for RT to show up in D.C.

        • Tabby

          Me too.

  • Ernie

    I find a good kick to the rear panel as they drive away after refusing to give you a ride to be justified in most instances. With a few exceptions, dc cabbies are the scum of the earth.

  • Emmmk

    I used to use the get in the cab first trick too. They’ve gotten smart, they know if you try that- you’re going to Arlington. I’ve had many roll the window down and keep the doors locked until I tell them where Im going. My new thing is to say something like M st, and then pretend I got a text and now I need to go to Arlington. But seriously, its ridiculous. I’ve been standing on the street for up to an hour trying to hail a cab back to Arlington. Im sure it will only get more fun if Metro cuts its hours back..

    • Z

      I’ve found this to be the case as well. Most of the time though, just getting in first does work, unless you are leaving a really popular area around last call.

  • Rebecca

    This is not new news. This goes down all the time.

    • wat

      Yeh, I’ve even had it happen trying to go from Georgetown to other places in DC. 3 cars in a row actually from the movie theatre, ended up just walking to the metro station and riding back that way.

  • CourthouseGuy

    And DC cabs dont take credit cards! What is this the 80’s? If you go to NY, every cab has a quick and easy swipe payment system. I feel like if you ask a cabbie here if they accept credit, they just get angry. Lets move into this century people.

    • Arlington, Northside

      Totally different kinds of cities, you can not reasonably compare the two.

    • wat

      same thing as trying to get from dc to va, get in the cab first, let them take you to your destination, then give them your card.
      All red top cabs have cc, but if you ask before you get in, they will tell you it is broke. This lead me to walking home once from Rosslyn to Clarendon at 11pm because I kept asking if they took a card, and they would all say “its broke”.

      Even if you don’t see a dash mounted cc machine, they will have the old manual versions. This goes for non red tops as well

      • nova

        One reason for that – at least so I’ve been told – is that the cab companies charge the cabbies fees on the CC transaction. Apparently the fees are well in excess of the usual CC processing fees. So the cabbies have a strong incentive to get cash.

        • Lou

          And considering so many people refuse to carry cash, I can see how this could be a problem. If you think your cab fare is going to be around 10 dollars or less, have some damn money on you to pay instead of a debit card.

  • CadeTyler

    You know Red Top will come and collect you from DC if you call them. If you’re too drunk to talk, simply use the TaxiMagic app on Android or iPhone!

  • steve

    Get inside of the cab, close the door, they will start driving. THEN you say go to arlington. They aren’t going to stop the cab and throw you out without getting in huge trouble.

  • Caps

    I had threre cabs refuse just last night trying to get a cab to VA from the Verizon Center following the Capitals game. It has happened though for years. I actually just got in a cab I hailed once and the driver pulled forward as I was trying to sit and demanded to know where I was going. He obviously refused. Maybe that was the exception.

  • JamesE

    I’ve never had a problem getting cabs to take me back to Ballston. Usually get them in adams morgan.

    • lemkam

      Agreed. I take a cab from Dupont to Ballston every weekend and have only had a problem twice – and on the same afternoon no less! Everyone’s comments are news to me.

  • PotentialSlacker

    Thanks for providing that link about refusing service (it’s section 819.5 to which they refer) but my question is this – who enforces? When I do finally find a cab, I’d like a phone number to report each driver who denied me on the way!

    Also, is anyone else annoyed by the taxi predators around Whitlows and Ballroom? If they’re not dead stopped in the middle of the road people watching, I’m having to avoid getting into an accident when they freak out once their prey has been spotted! ..I get stuck in more traffic lights than necessary either way

  • CrystalMikey

    I actually miss the negotiating with the cabs back before the DC metering came into being. I always found it nuts though…like man, I’m only going from M St. to Crystal City and you want how much?

  • Tim

    – Flag down a cab
    – Enter the cab, close the door
    – Tell the cabbie your destination
    – If cabbie refuses, stay in the cab and look at the sticker in the window
    – Call the DC Taxicab Commission on your cell phone and report the cabbie
    – At this point, the cabbie might flip up his visor to hide his license number. If this happens, tell the commission. The information on the outside of the cab would probably be sufficient to report the cabbie.

    Point is, it’s illegal for a cabbie to refuse a fare anywhere within the District, Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Montgomery or Price George’s. If you tell him your destination before getting in the cab, he can just drive away. If you stay in the cab, he can’t do anything.

    It’s also illegal for the cabbie to demand to know your destination before you get in. If this happens, try to remember the info from the exterior of the cab and report it that way.

    • oh no he didn’t

      great tip. this is why i have the dc cab commission’s number programed into my phone. i’ve had cabs try to refuse me before – a quick threat to call the cab commission will get them headed towards va. i heard the dc cab commission will sometime actually answer the phone and ask to speak with the driver.

  • lily

    They won’t refuse you if you’re dressed in work clothes…. they guess (correctly, in my case) that you’re probably going to give them a huge tip and bill it to your client.

  • Andrew

    Yet another reason why I walk everywhere I go.

  • steve

    I give DC cabs big tips too. I’ll take the cab from somewhere in DC, they drop me off in Arlington, total fare is under $10, and I give them a $20 and tell them to keep the change..

    • CrystalMikey

      Same here.

    • Carmen

      Me too.

    • LBSki


  • Tabby

    In the days of meters, I hated catching DC cabs to Virginia. They’d nearly always try to rip me off.

  • Arlwhenever

    To this government imposed artifical restriction of supply there is a market solution most people have in their pocket or a purse. It’s known as a sawbuck, or if you are stingy, half a sawbuck. For the hack, the empty backhaul is a lot more problematic than the availability of a $1 fuel surcharge. I always beef up the tip when I know I’m putting the cabbie in a position where he can’t make anything on the return.

    • Maria

      I don’t understand 3/4 of what you just said.


  • Scott

    This has been a problem for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Bethesda, it was a challenge to say the least to grab a cab heading to that nether region. My trick then was to tell them an address in upper northwest, then jump out and walk home. No such option for Arlington. On my most recent cabbie refusal (to Arlington), I stepped back and took a picture of his car while he drove away. Interestingly, another cabbie immediately pulled in front and picked me up – only if I deleted the picture…

  • Overgrown Bush

    Yet another reason to avoid going into DC as much as possible.

  • OX4

    I wouldn’t pick up David Hyde either.

  • Lucas

    I always get in before I tell them my destination near P-City. I’ve had a couple cabs tell me their meter is broken then quote me a fare, always ridiculously high. I pull out my phone and say that I’ll call the taxi commission for them to report this broken meter and that they can’t pick up any fares. Usually shuts them up.

  • Ahole

    I’ll usually pull out my smartphone and start recording the taxi number and taxi as soon as he pulls up (without it being obvious). If he rolls down the window to try to ask me where I want to go I won’t pay any attention and immediately try to get in the back door. I’ve never had one pull away when I’ve done that but if they do I have them on video and can report it to the taxi cab commission. If I get in and they say they don’t want to go to Virginia I tell them it’s illegal and I’ll report them to the taxi cab commission AND that I have them on video. It has never failed.

    • Chris

      You are literally my hero! It’s shame it’s come to this, but if this is what it takes to get those bastards to follow the law, then so be it. Well done sir!

  • Anon

    Cabs sucked yesterday. Tried to get a cab through a dispatcher to go across DC. Waited for close to an hour. Eventually missed appointment and still no cab. Will now try a different cab company.

    • Southeast Jerome

      what company??

      • Anon


  • bred

    Wouldn’t just be easier to offer the DC cab $1 in cash (off his books) for the fuel surcharge??

  • Phi

    I live in Arlington and go out every weekend in DC. The majority of DC taxis are scumbags. Not only do I have to hail 3-4 taxis before one will pick me up and take me back to Arlington, but these scumbags notoriously try to charge me the 3 rate, which is the “snow rate” for DC (the normal rate outside of DC to MD or VA is the 2 rate). The 3 rate is a 125% increase over the normal fare and should only be used in emergency situations. Numerous times I have threated to call the cops, the taxi commission, and their bosses if they didn’t change the fare. Sometimes, I have been told to get out of the taxi, other times I have called the taxi commission and they’ve done nothing, but my favorite is when these ignorant, selfish taxi drivers start yelling at me for complaining about the illegal rate they are charging me.

    All in all, DC taxis suck. They don’t accept credit card, they are always trying to scheme you, and their cars are out dated and disgusting. One time a taxi cab’s rear tire popped on Key Bridge and he asked us to help fix it… WHILE THE METER WAS STILL RUNNING! After we were done helping him, we asked him for a free fare and he said no. Another taxi took us home.

    • Ahole

      What do you mean by 3 rate and 2 rate? How do you know what this is on the meter?

      • Ahole

        I found an explanation of the rates here http://dccabbie.blogspot.com/2011/02/taxi-meter-scams.html but to clarify does the “3” or “2” show up on the meter or do you just know from the amount showing when he starts the meter?

      • Phil

        normally top rate, above the actual fare. 1 is for DC, 2 is for out of DC, 3 is for snow. see, you probably got had too.

        “During a snow emergency fare period, as declared by the Chairperson of the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission (Chairperson), the meter fare rate shall be 125% of the applicable regular fare. ”

        ” Whenever the taxicab driver is to charge the snow emergency fare, upon the
        passenger entering the taxicab the driver shall inform the passenger that snow
        emergency fares are in effect and explain the fare”

        • Ahole

          Yep, I am almost certain I’ve been had then. DC cab drivers are scum.

    • Southeast Jerome

      wow thats quite a story, but I am actually more interested in why you go to DC EVERY WEEKEND?

      You must be a socialite but you do realize the true DC socialites refer to you as a bridge jumper.

      • Phil

        moving to dc in june. when your apt complex increases your rent on you 16.4% in 1.5 years, it calls for a change… I metro to work (blue/yellow) and refuse to take the orange line, so DC it is. Got to figure out a way to keep that VA residency though ha

  • Hillman

    I always get in the cab before telling the destination. I often have DC cabs refuse to take me back home to Capitol Hill.

    I’m polite about it, but I advise them that I’m not leaving their cab until they take me where I want to go. After all, that is the law.

    Usually I have plenty of unanswered emails and web surfing I can do from the back seat of their cab while they mutter incoherently before finally taking me where they are required by law to take me.

    DC needs to overhaul their entire cab industry to include things like minimum cab standards (many DC cabs are from NYC and other cities after they’ve reached the maximum age and mileage to work in those cities), a requirement to take credit cards with the swipe in the back seat area (with a a backup hand operated card machine if needed), a much stronger taxi cab driver exam (many DC cabbies don’t know even basics about how to get around in the area)….

    The cab system truly is the weak link in any desire we have to be a more public transit oriented area.

    • Chris

      Amen. Well said. I can’t help but wonder, though: this has clearly been a problem for years, and yet it would seem DCTC hasn’t done a thing to improve the situation.

  • xza

    Where specifically is the law saying that a cab driver cant refuse to take someone based on destination? I read through the regulations linked to the posting and couldnt find it.

    • Ahole

      I found this on the DC Taxicab Commission site;

      Is there a circumstance when a driver can refuse to take on a passenger?

      It is against the law to refuse a person based on race, disability or destination in the District of Columbia. A taxicab driver is required to drive a passenger to any destination in the District of Columbia. However, if the driver has been operating the taxicab for more than twelve (12) hours of any continuous twenty-four (24) hour period, or the vehicle is on-call or off-duty for mechanical or other reasons, then he/she may refuse to take on a passenger. (See rule 820). The driver, however, is required to display the “on-call” or “off-duty” or “out-of-service” signs indicating that the vehicle is out of service and must have the cruising light turned off indicating that the taxicab is not for hire. (See rule 605.6)

      • Ahole

        Here is the site DC Taxicab Commission site: http://dctaxi.dc.gov/dctaxi/cwp/view,A,3,Q,487826,dctaxiNav,|30625|.asp

      • Tabby

        They never have the light on or off for any “sensible” reason. I’ve had cabbies insist that it’s the other way around.

      • madisonmanor

        “It is against the law to refuse a person based on race, disability or destination in the District of Columbia.” So according to the DC Taxicab Commission site, then they CAN refuse a destination in Virginia. I personally have never had a problem with cabbing into or out of DC, but I mostly use Red Top going from VA and come back from Union Station.

        • Ahole

          I think you are interpreting it wrong. I read it as in the District of Columbia, by law, they can’t refuse all of the above.

    • PotentialSlacker

      From the link posted in the article, they refer to section 819.5

  • JohnB

    I consistently have this problem trying to get back to Clarendon from the district. What I run in to usually is cabbies keeping their doors locked and asking you where you are going through the window before they unlock the doors.

  • Ballstonian

    Ever eat and run? Cab and run is even more fun, it’s like adult tag. Just hopefully you live in a huge apt. complex and you know that you can outrun the guy up the stairs…

    • Ballstonian also

      Real class act.

    • John

      So just offer to pay the cabbie the extra buck. Fair is fair.

      I think the bigger reason is that DC cabs aren’t supposed to pick up in VA and they don’t want to drive back to DC without a fare after dropping off a VA fare.

    • GMo

      This kid I went to school with years ago attempted this up Conn Ave by Vanness, except his drunk ass didn’t get through his building’s secure doors in time and got his ass beat by the taxi driver. I told him it served him right.

  • fairlington

    I had a DC cab fake an engine breakdown right outside the Verizon Center. We got in, told them Arlington and two blocks later he kills the engine and coasts to the curb. I didn’t believe it was happening until we got into another cab and saw him drive away after we we’re a few blocks away. Terrible.

  • Wow. I had no idea all that was going on with DC taxi drivers. The most recent time I tried to get a cab in DC was last month after a show at the Kennedy Center. There was a long line of people at the taxi stand, and no cabs showing up. I just figured that the taxis were not available due to something letting out at the Verizon Center. Maybe the taxi drivers figured everyone was going to Virginia? Anyway, I wound up taking the KC Shuttle to the Metro, then taking an Arlington cab home from the Ritz at Pentagon City (where there are typically a lot of cabs actually wanting to take fares).

  • Mike

    I just got back from Miami… Try getting a cab from South Beach to downtown Miami. During my 5 days trip, I had to hustle every single cab ride, not one ride was normal. We ended up throwing out numbers like $60 until he couldn’t refuse, and he picked up random people on the way that we didn’t even know.

    Examples: I wanted to go 10 blocks in the other direction and he yelled at my that he had to make a U-Turn. Another time I was trying to go the airport which is a $32 flat fare. I found some people that were going to the airport and joined them and he tried the group I joined $32 and me $32 for a total of $64.

  • Interpol

    After having trouble hailing a cab near Rosslyn Metro, a DC cabbie finally picked me up a couple of weeks ago(several drivers drove past and one shook his head at me when I told him I just needed to go 3 miles down Wilson).

    He told me that ACPD officers will look for DC cabbies picking up passengers in VA and give them tickets because it’s against county laws. I felt bad and gave him a $15 tip for putting his neck on the line.

    Um, he also said that a lot of drivers profile (won’t pick up certain people) and Arlingtonians are generally stingy.

  • Kiffee

    Just saw this:

    So tell me this: why is it NYC seems to be able to get its collective s*** together when it comes to cabs and DC is still using fleets of nasty old Crown Vics?

  • MDP

    Lately, I’ve been telling the DC cabbies that I live in courthouse near Gtown and I’ll give $5 on top of the meter. So far, it hasn’t failed. I’m guessing that in their minds, the $5 covers the cost to Gtown, where they can then easily find someone to pick up.

  • Avni The Beast

    you are boring


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