DC cabs to change from zones to meters

Those of you who have lists of things to complain about regarding our fair city won’t have the notorious zone system to kick around anymore–Mayor Adrian Fenty has ordered the DC Taxicab Commission to switch all cabs operating in the District to a metered system.

Naturally, the cabbies are threatening a strike, and none of this amounts to more than political posturing until the change actually takes effect, which could be months away, even beyond Fenty’s hoped-for spring deadline. But on its face, is this a good or bad move?

The zone system can be horrifically confusing to tourists and people who don’t live in the District, which gives unscrupulous cabbies ample opportunity to rip people off. (“What do you mean $10.80? That was a five-minute drive!”) Not to mention all the times a cabbie will take you completely out of the way from your intended destination so that they can cross into a different zone and charge you extra. As a commenter on Washington D.C.’s LiveJournal community notes, this is probably going to benefit the multi-billion dollar cash injection that tourism provides the city, as well as the new ex-exurban residents who are moving into the District paralleling the increase in commercial and retail development.

On the other hand, a metered system will seriously hose people who have to travel long distances or brave rush-hour traffic. Whereas you can suss out exactly how much money you’ll owe from a trip via the zone system, no matter the time of day, a metered system will cause that fare to pile up to inconceivable levels in the morning and evening rush. It may also hose the many “gypsy” cabbies that work independently and make their living from the cash under the table. As an independent contractor myself, I can feel their pain. There is also the likelihood (voiced by this Post article commenter) that this will favor the armies of commuting businesspeople who work in the District over the longtime residents who live further out from the downtown core.

What do you, the DC bloggers, think of this change? Good, bad, indifferent?