Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Forced Ride-Sharing at Union Station: Is It the Rule?

A frequent Union Station taxi customer reported on her frustration at being forced into shared rides in violation of the cab-sharing rules that are supposed to be in force at Union Station.  Here is her story, which she first reported on the Cleveland Park Listserv:

There's a big scam underway at the Station. The drivers and dispatchers have turned upside-down the rule enabling you to ride from there with a friend to two drop-offs (it's apparently the only DC location where you can ask for two drop-offs). Instead, they're forcing passengers to share cabs with complete strangers, often not headed in your direction, and you're both required to pay full fare from the Station.

I've had two troubling situations recently. The first time I didn't know the law. The second, after having spoken with the taxi authority and having been told we have the right to decline a shared ride there (and that dispatchers are prohibited from getting involved), I informed the dispatcher and driver that I knew what they were doing was illegal. The dispatcher then informed me he'd refuse to let me enter any cab if I didn't comply.

On both occasions I was a single woman with luggage traveling at night, so my alternatives were few. I was first forced to go to the West End with two sketchy men and the second time to Adams Morgan on a Saturday night. (I live on Connecticut Avenue near the Zoo.) Both times the drivers freaked out on me about my objections and then, seeing me write down their numbers, suggested we negotiate lesser fares off the meter. I formally reported both cabs and the second dispatcher and was told they would be investigated, but I can't get an update.

Not only are the drivers doing this in violation of District taxi laws but the dispatchers, who are either DC or Station employees, are committing fraud. I'm on Amtrak frequently and have started booking returns arriving before dark so I can bypass cabs and take the Metro. But obviously thousands of people are getting ripped off.


  1. I suggest this website :


    I believe it is a mobile website and they're finishing up their iPhone app soon to be released.

  2. While services such as cabmatch might be effective if you've got time to plan, when you're standing in a Union Station line being hustled (both meanings of that word) into taxis, it's not helpful.
    I've experienced this situation at the Station too and the drivers sure seem to be in cahoots with the allegedly-independent dispatchers. When I questioned why I was being forced to do this, I was told by the dispatcher "there's a shortage of cabs" despite the fact that I could see an endless lineup and more cabs arriving. There are 3 problems with what's being permitted to go on:
    1) People are being illegally overcharged. The 2nd drop-off pays the full fare too, including the additional cost rung up by the stranger. Most of us are OK with paying extra to share a cab with a friend but getting stuck for someone forced on them is unfair.
    2) As a single woman who survived an armed robbery and attempted kidnapping a few years back, I don't want to share a cab with a stranger. Especially at night. G-d forbid anything happens to someone due to this forced travel, everyone from the dispatcher and driver to the District and the cab company will be sued and they'll lose.
    3) And most importantly: what's being done is illegal. It's a scam. It's corrupt. And it's a disgrace that it's being permitted to happen at one of DC's main points of entry for residents and tourists. It speaks volumes, none good.

  3. I have found that it pays to complain in writing by fax. I have found the taxi commission helpful, though it takes them about 2 weeks to get back to you. Clearly, more of us having problems at Union Station should lodge complaints. For those of you who don't know, you don't need the driver's number from the ID to complain. You only need the cab number, the company name, the time you took the cab and and the to-from points.

    I sure hope they crack down on this. No one should be forced to share a cab with a stranger unless they want to.

  4. This has been going on for a long time, since before the cabs got meters. I had no idea it was illegal.