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Taxi Drivers Going on Strike to Protest Meter System

A number of D.C. taxicab drivers are planning to strike for 24 hours, beginning at 6 a.m. today, in protest of the new meter system being put into place by Mayor Adrian Fenty (D).

It is unclear how many of the city’s approximately 7,000 cabs will partake in the strike, which is being arranged by William J. Wright of the Taxicab Industry Group. Wright was unable to be reached for comment by press time.

Tom Heineman, a public member of the D.C. Taxi Commission, said the strike does not appear to be very organized and he questions how much of an effect it will have on District residents.

“D.C. has over 7,000 taxicabs and I think that is pretty darn high compared to the population. Even if half went on strike there would still be a few cabs around,” he said.

On Oct. 17, Fenty announced the switch to a meter system, which will base cost on distance and time spent in traffic rather than 23 pre-ordained zones, though the issue has been talked about for some time.

Many D.C. residents complain that the zone system is hard to figure out and that it makes it easy for cab drivers to take advantage of their passengers. In September, taxicab commissioners considered making the change, but they were unable to come to a consensus.

It is unclear when the new meters will be put into place, though the taxi commission is working to employ them early next year.

“The chairman is working on trying to get [meters] implemented by the spring,” Heineman said. “The commission would love to have a dialogue with drivers on how the rates should be set, but [striking] is not a productive way to do it. They’re not going to change the mayor’s mind.”

According to Washington Regional Alcohol Program President Kurt Erickson, the strike will not affect the SoberRide program, which offers free cab rides to adults over the age of 21 whose Halloween celebrations include alcohol.

“We had direct conversations with the D.C. taxi cab commissioner yesterday about this as well as our cab provider in the District,” he said. “Neither thinks there will be enough participants to affect getting a cab in general or the SoberRide program.”

He added that the cab operators he’s spoken to plan to strike from only 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. “The majority don’t want to give up the profitable evening hours,” he said.