D.C. Cabs Suck

Know Your Rights

What can you do? Depends on what level of pissed you are.

Level 0: I'm Happy! Service was great.

TIP WELL. Thank the driver. Feel good about the world, maybe hug a puppy or something.

Level 1: Steaming (this is the default).

Know your rights. Make sure the driver knows you know your rights, and don't tolerate mistreatment.

By Law, DC Cab Drivers must:

  • Pick you up, provided they are on duty and are not previously engaged (with extremely limited exceptions, such as if picking you up would violate the law, or if they have reason to believe you are committing a crime).
  • Take you anywhere in the DC metropolitan area
  • Keep the cab clean
  • Give a receipt, upon request, which includes the Operator's name, ID card number, Vehicle tag number, time and date, amount of the fare, and the Commission's complaint phone number.
  • Display their “face card” (Taxi driver ID) on the passenger-side sun visor so that it is visible at all times.
  • Display a Passenger Rights sign on the back of the passenger seat. The sign needs to also include the taxi's tag number, the company or owner's name, and the taxicab number.
  • Turn off the radio if you ask them to.
  • Tell you if they cannot make change for a large bill while en route to your destination.
    • If they do tell you en route that they cannot make change and you say you need change, they must stop en route at a place where you can make change. They cannot charge for this stop.
    • If they tell you they can't make change for a large bill, and you don't tell them you will need change, they can charge a maximum of 50 cents for the service of going to a place to make change and returning to your destination. They cannot refuse to make change, and cannot charge anymore than 50 cents for this service.
  • Transport small animals inside pet carriers, unless the driver can present a certificate of medical exemption provided by the Taxicab Commission. (However they can require anything that would make the cab dirty or smelly to go in the trunk, or if that wouldn't abate the problem, they can refuse to transport it.)
  • Transport wheelchairs or other assistive devices, including guide dogs.
  • Return lost property to the police station after each shift.
  • Take the most reasonable route between the origin and the destination. (And, of course, follow your directions.)

By Law, DC Cab Drivers must not:

  • Ask you where you are going before letting you in. (Dispatchers are also prohibited from asking you where you are going).
  • Pick up more passengers unless you ask them to, except as provided in “shared riding,” explained below. Shared riding is only available at Union Station, Verizon Center, and Nationals Park, and only at the direction of an employee of these places.
  • A passenger may refuse shared riding, and the taxi must then transport you like a normal trip.
  • If you are not the first passenger in the cab during shared riding, this is the only time a driver may ask you where you are going before you get in.
  • During shared riding, the meter runs like normal, and the driver resets the meter each time a passenger is dropped off. Each passenger is responsible for the fare displayed on the meter when they get out. The driver cannot add any surcharges other than the normal meter drop.
  • Refuse to take a credit card payment for any trip on the grounds that the trip is too short.
  • Refuse to transport an individual based upon race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, or marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity, family responsibility, political affiliation, disability, source of income, and place of residence or business.
  • Solicit business in public spaces, railroad stations, bus stations, or buildings. (It is also illegal for anyone else to solicit business for taxis in these places.)


The rates DC cab drivers charge are tightly regulated. Here are the rules. These are the ONLY things you can be charged for:

  • The meter drop is $3.
  • The charge is 27 cents for each 1/8th of a mile after the first 1/8th.
  • The wait rate is 42 cents/minute. This is charged if the taxi slows below 10mph.
  • When on call, charge you for the wait time unless 5 minutes have elapsed from the scheduled pickup time.
  • 50 cents for each piece of luggage that the operator places in the trunk.
  • A $2 surcharge if they were dispatched by telephone.
  • 50 cents if they notify you en route that they don't have the ability to change a large bill, and you ask them at the destination for change, and the driver has to exit the cab to get change.
  • An airport surcharge if the airport itself charges them a surcharge.
  • A $15 snow emergency surcharge during a snow emergency (which must be declared by the Mayor or Taxi Commission). During an emergency, the taxi must display a sign provided by the Commission explaining the fee.
  • If there is a gas surcharge in effect, the driver may charge it. There is not currently one in effect as of July 6, 2012.

You Specifically Cannot Be Charged For:

  • EXTRA PASSENGERS (unless the taxi is a van, in which case they can charge a maximum of $1 extra for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th passenger, and can charge nothing extra after that.)
  • Using a credit card.
  • Any luggage not handled by the driver.
  • Transport of wheelchairs or other assistive devices, or guide dogs.

Level 2: Furious

The DC Taxicab commission is charged with investigating complaints from taxi customers. Visit dctaxi.dc.gov and click on “Complaints and Commendations,” and you can file a complaint for any violation via e-mail. Try to collect as much information as possible for the complaint. The website currently says that the complaint must “include the minimum of the name of the operator, vehicle license tag, and date and time of the incident.” This is not true, the law does not require these things (31 DCMR §701), however, your complaint is more likely to be more successful the more information you get. The commission does not have the best reputation for investigating complaints, but they are tracked. You should be contacted within 20 days (though often it takes longer) with the driver's response to the complaint. There may be a hearing, at which you are invited to explain what happened.

Level 3: It's 3AM and No One Will Take Me Home and Things Are Scary and I'm so Mad and Sad and Angry and Confused and Lonely Because No One Will Take Me Home. Or, a Taxi Driver Assaulted Me. Or, Refused to Pick Me Up Because I'm Not White. Or, He Was Just An Intolerable Asshole. Or, I Just Really Want To Fix the Problem of Bad Cabs, and Maybe Make $1500.

Washington D.C. has the best consumer protection laws in the country. They were written to encourage the people in the District to demand high standards from businesses in the District and to promote fair business practices. (No, really! The law actually says this! D.C. Code § 28-3901(b).)

Daniel Hornal, an attorney at a local public-interest consumer rights law firm, www.taloslaw.com, has decided that if the District government isn't going to fix the problems, he's going to try. Under the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act, aggrieved customers of businesses which violate the law (almost any law) in the District of Columbia are entitled to $1500 per violation, plus attorney fees. So, Talos Law takes these cases, and doesn't charge for them. If you win, Talos Law gets its fees from the other side, and if you don't win (not enough evidence, judge just doesn't believe you, whatever) then you just walk away. The idea is that if enough people do this, the bad drivers will get weeded out, and the lousy-but-still-ok drivers will be scared into actually following the law.

If you want to do this, the most important thing is to collect evidence. Writing down all the info you can get about the cab (cab number, driver's name, license plate) and what happened as soon as possible after the incident is a good start. Even better would be to take photos or record the incident on a cell phone camera. (Note: don't record it secretly if you're in Maryland! You wouldn't want to end up like Linda Tripp. But it's legal in DC and Virginia.) Video evidence of a violation would be very difficult to argue with in court.

So if you really want to fix the cabs here, drop them a line at
Fix problems and make money. That's the sort of thing that could really calm someone down.

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DC Cabs Suck is a website by Brink Media Inc.
We are not affiliated with Talos Law, we just believe in their cause.