Should Cab Fares Be Regulated? YES!
At a Charm City Circulator meeting a few weeks ago a question was asked by a gentleman in the crowd, “How has the Circulator affected the cab industry?” My first thought was, who cares? I am a business owner, and know a ton of other business owners, and I want to see as many businesses succeed as possible. I, however, cannot stick up for a business that is wildly uncontrolled. There is a set of business ethics in the Baltimore cab industry that remind me of the mortgage industry system that brought this country crashing down several years ago.
A common statement I hear from conversations about moving to South Baltimore is, “If you want to go to Canton, Fells Point or Mt. Vernon, it’s like a $5 cab ride.” It should be true, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Recently on a trip to Brewers Art in Mt. Vernon, which is 2.5 miles from our home, we decided to take a cab. We took Raven Cab on the way there and the fare was about $7.50. Not bad, but still a lot of money for a short commute and less than 10 minutes of someone’s time. On the way home we caught a Checker Cab and our fare was more than $20 by the time we got to the Inner Harbor. We told the cab driver to just let us out, we’d walk the rest of the way. In this trip, I guess we were lucky they even turned the meter on!
I could go on for hours about the times we have been screwed over by cab drivers. For the most part, when the meter is not on, you are about to get screwed over and should just get out of the cab. Recently I was with our friends on their wedding night in Harbor East and we wanted to stop by their hotel on Light St. to drop them off before heading down to our house, which is also on Light St. The cab driver told us it would cost $20 and we agreed because we were cold and ready.
On the way Adele’s “Someone Like You” came on the radio and the groom jokingly said, “I’ll tip you $20 bucks if you turn this up.” By the time we got to their hotel the guy said we owed him $40 and also pretended like he didn’t know we needed to get to our house also. He got $30 and we made it home safe and sound but ticked off. The entire trip was less than 2.3 miles and took less than 15 minutes. The cab driver already ripped a bride and groom off for $30, but wanted more.
I could tell many stories like that including last night when a cab driver wanted $7 to go 7 blocks on Light St., a drive that took less than 2 minutes. Tried taking a cab to the airport lately? There is now a $30 minimum fare to get there because BWI started their own cab service preventing any other cabs from picking passengers up. Driving to the airport takes less than 10 minutes from Federal Hill. Ever try taking a cab home on Halloween, St. Patricks Day or New Year’s Eve? Be prepared to pay $40-$50 to go anywhere.
I’ve made my points and I could go on for much longer. I’m tired of dealing with this in a city that has an incredibly insufficient rail system. Just getting to the Light Rail is a 20 minute walk and from there is not a lot of places you can go. Let’s look at the Brewers Art example. It is a 20-minute walk to the Light Rail, probably a 15-minute ride on the rail, a 10-minute walk to the restaurant and let’s throw in 5 minutes to wait for the train. So is it worth spending 50 minutes to go 2.5 miles? Of course not. Yes we now have the Charm City Circulator, but that was just your average break down of the rail system for a SoBo resident. So taking cabs is pretty essential in this city when you throw in the parking concerns and limited mass transit options after midnight.
Cabs are regulated in cities like New York City and Washington, DC where the cab rides are fair and reasonable. We had friends down from New York this weekend and they couldn’t believe how expensive cabs are down here. This is the same city where your 1200-square foot rowhouse in Federal Hill would cost you at least twice as much in Manhattan and almost as much in Washington, DC. Both of these cities also have top notch subway systems. In the words of our friend from NYC, “$10 gets you really far in New York.”
So what’s the deal in Baltimore? If it is regulated, which this article claims it is to some degree, the regulations aren’t worth the paper they are printed on or the bandwidth they occupy on a website. Why are the meters ever turned off? Why does Checker Cab cost three times as much as Raven Cab? Why are cab drivers offering shady deals? Why are they allowed to charge $30 to go eight miles to the airport? The bottom line is they shouldn’t be able to and Baltimore City needs to be much stricter with the taxi cab industry because people are getting screwed over every hour of every day, many times when they have no other transportation options.
Update: Cabs are regulated by the Public Service Commission… clearly not effectively. So we need to share our concerns with our state delegates, and hope for enforcement!
Please share with us your stories about the taxi cab industry and hopefully we can move towards bringing about major changes!
Councilman Cole Addressing the Cab Fare Situation