D.C. taxi drivers and their allies, standing strong and united, unleashed a barrage of questions toward the D.C. Taxicab Commission today, demanding answers to the ongoing problems and challenges facing drivers.
“We want to be in compliance with the regulations, but the way these regulations have been imposed have been totally unfair,” said Ferline Buie, President of Teamsters Local 922. “Drivers have been put into a difficult position by the City Council and Taxicab Commission. The city did not provide the drivers with the funding to help pay for these changes like it said it would do.”
About 15 drivers asked the Commission questions, but Commission Chairman Ron Linton picked and chose which questions to answer. However, Linton did say he would be willing to meet with the Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association to answer questions at a later date, and Buie will be following up with Linton's office.
Margo Bonner, a driver for the past 29 years, said she spent more than $400 on her credit card machine and related parts, only to be told on October 29 that her contract with USA Motors was to be terminated.
“This meant I had to pay for it all over again,” said Bonner, who added that the costs are not reasonable to drivers, many of whom struggle to make ends meet.
Another longtime driver said D.C. drivers are facing threats to their livelihoods from drivers from outside the District, and from companies such as Uber. The driver questioned the commission about why it would allow operators such as Uber when there is already more than enough taxis operating in the District. Uber and similar services will hurt taxi drivers’ livelihoods, he said. The Commission boasts that it listens to drivers before it imposes regulations, but the driver said he doesn’t believe that is the case. “When are you going to include real drivers?” he asked.
Girma Alemayehu of the International Ethiopian Evangelical Church in Northwest D.C., urged the commission to treat the drivers fairly.
“Cab drivers need to be treated with honor and respect together with professional customer service,” Alemayehu said. “They are not only taxpayers but they are human beings created equal. Prejudice of all kind should be eliminated and accountability must be in place.”