A cacophony of taxicab horns caused a clamor around Capitol Hill around 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Hundreds of cab drivers staged a protest, blasting their horns as they blocked traffic on streets surrounding the Capitol. The caravan was organized in coordination with Teamsters Local 922 to pressure the D.C. Council for regulations to help them compete with popular “ridesharing” services, such as UberX, Lyft and Sidecar.
Capitol Police attempted to help pedestrians and other drivers navigate the chaos on Independence Avenue. Horns could be heard within the halls of surrounding office buildings. Despite the “TAXI OFF DUTY” signs perched atop the swarm, confused tourists and staffers tried to hail drivers during the rolling revolt. Drivers told CQ Roll Call that their protest would continue for another hour, and streets around the Capitol were given the all-clear by Capitol Police around 12:20 p.m.
The drivers departed from East Potomac Park at 10 a.m. and hit up downtown Freedom Plaza before heading to the Hill. They delivered a letter and petition to city officials, asking lawmakers to create a level playing field for the cabs.
“On behalf of more than 2,000 D.C. taxi drivers who are members of the Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association who follow the rules and regulations of the District, we demand that the city order the so-called private sedan services to immediately cease operations until a fair resolution is reached,” the letter from Teamsters Local 922 President Ferline Buie stated.
In Virginia, the Department of Motor Vehicles issued a cease and desist order to Uber and Lyft, saying they are operating in violation of state law. Uber has chosen to defy the order, and UberX drivers continue to operate in Virginia. The D.C. taxicabs say the District should follow suit and boot the competing services.
The local drivers join a chorus of protests around the nation, as states and localities try to figure out how to regulate the growing industry.
Under the current structure, D.C. taxi drivers must abide by numerous regulations, including undergoing background checks, obtaining special licenses and getting their vehicles inspected every six months. The cabbies say D.C. puts the public at risk by not holding private “ridesharing” services to the same safety standards.
“Today’s rally and caravan show we are serious about being treated fairly and we demand action now,” Buie said.