Race And The Zone System Controversy

2001 words - 9 pages

Race and the Zone System Controversy

You get in the cab; you are white and well dressed showing your social status. The cab driver is friendly and takes you directly to your destination. The little map in the backseat of the cab tells you the cost of your trip; however since you, like most people, never even read it, the cabbie tells you the price, and you go ahead and pay without question. You are a resident of the District and have gone the same route many times and for some reason the price varies occasionally. You only traveled through one zone from your upper-middle class neighborhood of Foggy Bottom to Capital Hill where you go about your busy life. For you the zone system of ...view middle of the document...

Having the second largest taxi industry in the country supports the substantial tourism in DC; the taxi fleet is second only to New York City, with a fleet of over 6000 cabs and 8000 drivers. DC also has a unique cab system because the city does not regulate the number of operators. A large majority of drivers in the district are entrepreneurs who do not work for corporate taxi fleets. With a large fraction of private cabs, the system is much more efficient because it works similar to a free market.

Recently the controversy over the zone system versus a metered system has resurfaced and been the topic of much debate. The question over the two systems was first raised in 1931 when the Public Utilities Commission mandated that meters be implemented in all cabs. However, Congress overruled this decision and a ban on the use of public funds to implement meters was put into effect until 1986. Since 1986 there has been talk of changing the system and now some city officials, including the mayor, want meters to be put in all cabs and the zone system abolished. However, there is much opposition from the cab drivers and some of the city’s residents.

Argumentatively there are some advantages to the metered system. With the meter system cabbies would be less likely to overcharge customers, especially tourists, because the fare would be clearly displayed. However, there are many routes a driver could take in order to get to the same destination, so tourists could still be overcharged by the cabbie taking a longer or more heavily trafficked route. With the metered system, passengers pay per mile and for each minute spent in stopped traffic. The good idea behind charging for being stopped in traffic is that it will persuade cabbies to drive during rush hour. According to city officials, “Meters would also discourage speeding” (Chan 2). However, if the cab goes faster, more distance is covered in the same amount of time and the fare will be greater. By driving faster cabbies will be able to pick up passengers more often. So, how does the meter system discourage speeding? Taxies in New York use the meter system and cabbies there do not drive any slower than cabs in DC. The city also argues that with the meters, city officials could keep better track of the licensed drivers who live outside the District and collect business taxes from them.

This controversy continues to revolve around the cost of the cab rides and the ease of the system, but what should be considered is who will truly benefit from the change in the payment system and what implications it will have on the city’s diversity. A change to the meter system can be considered discriminatory because it can be argued that white tourists will be the ones benefiting the most and that the new system would hurt the less wealthy black residents and taxi drivers, most of whom are minorities. Although there are no statistics regarding DC, in New York, according to The NYC...

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