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D.C. cabbies sue Mayor Gray and Taxicab Commission chairman Ron Linton

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Two District taxicab drivers' associations are suing the D.C. taxicab commission, its chairman and Mayor Vincent Gray.

(Photo: Jay Westcott)

D.C. cab drivers once strongly supported Gray, but their relationship has soured. They're still upset about the change in fare system from zones to meters, which is partly why they supported Gray over Adrian Fenty in the last mayoral race.

“As soon as he got office, we could not meet with him, contact him, he made every excuse in the world,” said taxi driver Larry Frankel.

The Dominion of Cab Drivers and the D.C. professional taxicab drivers association are suing to force the mayor to fill vacancies on the taxicab commission, including three industry representatives, drivers or owners.

They also want the current meter rate raised from $1.50 a mile to $2 a mile.

“What we really want is a rate study that will indicate what the proper rates really should be rather than rates set in an arbitrary way,” said Bob Lian, attorney for the plaintiffs.

Drivers say D.C.’s meter rate does not compare to surrounding jurisdictions.

“At this moment, I can't sustain my business. I have been doing so borrowing money. I just can't make my bills,” Frankel said.

Drivers argue it’s a public safety issue.

“A lot of drivers are 60 or 70 years old. They have to sit in the cab 12-14 hours a day in order to make the money they need to survive for that money,” said driver Lucas.

Gray calls the lawsuit "premature"  and "misguided." He points out that he instituted a fuel surcharge in February and July to help drivers cope with higher gas prices.

“We intend to make a lot of changes, work with everyone who wants to be involved, make sure the law's complied with in terms of who should be on the commission. but again none of this could be done while the council was in recess, the council is just back and we look forward to moving ahead,” Gray said.

The commission’s acting chairman has proposed lifting the $19 cap on long distance trips and says his administration was prepared to send four nominees to the D.C. council for consideration, including two drivers.

The mayor says he believes many of the issues raised in the lawsuit can be resolved without litigation. If not, he says the attorney general "will vigorously defend it."

The cab companies are being represented by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the 2010 Law Firm of the Year.

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