10:15 PM, May 22, 2013 by Russ Ptacek
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9) – The DC Taxi Commission says it issued 15 citations, including $500 fines for refusing to pick up black and disabled passengers, while tracking an undercover WUSA9 investigation.
Click here for 5 Tips to get DC cabs to take you home and where to file a complaint.
The lack of service was so blatant, people on the streeted laughed loudly as they watched one cab after another pass by the WUSA9 decoys.
“Got him, got him,” one man cackled as another cab stopped for the white, sighted passenger after passing blind and black passengers in the same part of the block.
The undercover camera investigation shows taxi after taxi passing the blind woman -who was assisted by a service dog – going on to pass by an African-American passenger, stooping 100 feet down the road to offer service to the WUSA9 white, sighted, undercover decoy.
In all, out of 19 DC cabs tested in upper Georgetown and Adams Morgan, eight taxi drivers refused our requested Rockville destination, passed by the disabled and black passenger in favor of a sighted, nearby, white passenger, or passed all three decoys.
In previous WUSA9 investigations, 25% of cabs tested passed black passenger in favor of whites, and about half of taxis tested passed disabled passengers in favor of undercover decoys with no apparent disability.
This time, taxi inspectors observed the WUSA9 undercover operation.
“I watched you, look directly at the lady back there,” a taxi inspector said as he issued a citation for “refusal to haul.”
One of the taxis caught on camera refuses to take our black passenger to the AMC Theater at White Flint Mall in Rockville, but goes 100 feet up the road to pickup the white passenger requesting the same Rockville location.
The driver agrees to take the white passenger to Rockville, but is stopped on camera by the wailing siren and flashing lights of a DC Taxi Commission inspector’s vehicle.
When asked to explain why he agreed to take the white passenger to the same destination he’d just refused to the black passenger, the driver lowered his head and was silent.
Another taxi driver who refused the blind passenger and drove past the black passenger to pick up the white, sighted WUSA9 decoy was one of the eight cabs pulled over by inspectors.
The driver said he couldn’t tell them woman was blind, and because the harness strapped dog wasn’t wearing a vest, he couldn’t tell it was a service dog.
“How do I know she’s a blind lady,” he said. “How do I know this is a service dog?”
Neither DC nor Federal laws vests or certificates for service dogs.
He claimed he didn’t see the black passenger who he also passed and insisted it had nothing to do with the decoy’s race.
“Everytime, they mention black and white,” the driver said. “This is not a matter of black and white.”
Another cabby claimed he didn’t pick up the blind passenger because he was allergic to dogs, but when asked by inspectors to provide documentation, he had none.
He claimed he didn’t see the black passenger.
“Which black guy,” the driver asked. “No, I didn’t realize that.”
WUSA9 iAlert could prompt taxi fines up to $500
In response to our ongoing taxi investigation, WUSA9 created an online portal,WUSA9 iAlert, allowing passengers to immediately document discriminatory practices on phone videos.
Passengers can use the WUSA9 iAlert link at wusa9.com, e-mail their videos directly to iAlert@wusa9.com, or bookmark wusa9.com/iAlert on their mobile phone browser.
Taxi Commission officials say they don’t have the budget for their own undercover operations and they rely on the public to discriminatory taxi practices.