DC Cabbies Don’t Like Competition

During his primary campaign against Adrian Fenty, DC mayor-elect Vince Gray was able to attract the support of a very wide array of interest groups without making any formal promises. Now, though, the people in whose debt he is feel that it’s time to pay the piper. Cab drivers, for example, were solid Gray backers because they (accurately) blamed Fenty for imposing a rational meter system on the city rather than an insane zone system. Even the cabbies aren’t crazy enough to actually suggest going back to the old system, but they do have a different bad idea:

Derje Mamo, a taxi driver who helped run transportation for the mayor-elect’s campaign, said cabdrivers already are pushing Gray to reshape the Taxicab Commission and allow for the creation of a medallion system. A medallion or certification system would limit the number of cabs operating in the city. Proponents of such a system argue that too many taxis are flooding D.C. streets. ‘He’s got one year, that’s it,’ Mamo said.”

Too many taxis? Systems of this sort are widespread in other cities, but they’re not a good idea. Basically if you think it’s too easy and convenient to hail a cab in Washington, you’ll love an artificial regulatory restriction on the supply of taxis. In particular, if you think the city’s peripheral neighborhoods are too well-served by cab drivers and that we need to shift to a dynamic where you can only hail a cab in the downtown core, you’ll love this plan. You also might like it if you’re an incumbent cab driver who wants to restrict new entrants’ ability to compete with your business.

If Gray is smart, he’ll recognize that this is change we don’t need. But I worry that Gray will think the lesson of his victory is that city government should always bow to interest-group pressure.