Tell Me About Taxis (in DC)

I was hoping the SD can share their collective knowledge about travel by taxi, esp in DC:
a) How can I find out the rates taxis charge? What “chains” (brands) of taxis would I check out on the web? (Google, right? Well, I was hoping for locals to fill me in here.)
b) What is a proper tip for the driver?
c) How many can we squeeze into a taxi? Is one passenger allowed to sit up front?

P.S. If you’re wondering why not take the Metro, we’re going to be getting around during rush hour, and personally…I feel I am laying my life (or my kids’ lives) on the line having bad experiences, like almost being pushed down an escalator. Commuters have no heart…even on the weekends. They can’t break out of commuter mode.

Here are the rates. All DC taxis have the same rates. Those rates do not apply to Virginia and Maryland taxis. DC also has a car service called Uber: if you have a smartphone, you can order a car to pick you up via their app and it is generally a better service than taxis.

Tips are somewhere in the 10-15% range. Lots of cabbies here suck, so don’t feel obligated to tip well if the driver didn’t do a decent job of being polite, knowing where he was going, etc.

There is no standard taxi size in DC. There are Prius taxis that will be jammed full with four passengers, and minivans that seat six plus luggage. It is luck of the draw. You are allowed to sit in the front seat.

My station (WUSA9) has been doing an ongoing series of reports about DC taxis - they are not good. If you are a minority or disabled you may have trouble hailing a cab.

Here is an example.

Until a few years ago DC cabs used a ‘zone’ system which was very confusing and often grossly overcharged unwitting riders.

Recently DC cabs were forced to add credit card readers and new roof top signs which clearly state if they are available or not. Of course not all are working right now. Be sure to bring cash.

I prefer (some) Virginia cabs to DC cabs. That only works if you’re going to or from VA, obviously. I usually call Redtop when going between DC and one of the airports in VA. They’re clean and they take credit cards. DC cabs are supposed to, but they often don’t. If I end up in a DC taxi it’s usually because I hailed one on the street, so I can’t point you to a particular company.

Taking a cab during rush hour is going to be really, really slow. Especially compared to the subway, which has trains every 3 minutes. Just don’t block the escalators ;). Google also knows how the buses work, if that’s an option once you get into town.