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Bad cabs

| Thursday, April 21, 2016

On any given weekend night, the main circle fills with minivans sporting the logos of a variety of taxi companies. The special deal is $3 per person in a group within the nearby area, and it’s a pretty nice deal. It’s comparable to the price of taking a bus, and each person is responsible for her own fare. For these nearby locations, it’s a pretty nice deal for the drivers too, who make more than the meter price.

Unfortunately, the hundreds of students who crowd main circle in search of a ride on the weekend are frequently abused. Anyone who has ever taken a cab to a party or bar has heard this from the cab driver: “We have to wait for more people.” Sometimes a driver will refuse to leave without packing the car past capacity. I had this happen when I, in a group of five, was waiting for the van to fill. In a seven-seater van, you can’t get much closer to full. My friends and I resounded “Sir, the cab is already full.” In response, he squeezed the two young men looking for a ride together in the front seat. This wasn’t fair, safe or legal.

Sitting on another person’s lap is a common experience for cab patrons, so common that many of us don’t even react with the outrage the situation warrants. When you pay for a ride, you should expect, at the very least, your own seat. It’s not only uncomfortable to squeeze in next to too many people, but it’s also against the law. These cab drivers who are cramming up to 12 people in a vehicle that seats seven put our lives at risk. And even worse, the driver is rewarded for his bad behavior: he makes at times twice as much money from a single ride than his law-abiding counterpart.

Riding in a crowded cab may have you feeling anxious. You may sit fearfully in the back of the cab, thinking there’s nothing you can do. Or, it might not faze you. So many people ride in these packed cabs like it’s nothing, like this is just the way it is. But really, we as customers have the right — and the responsibility — to demand better service, at the very least lawful service.

Students need to respond more actively to these situations. Before getting into any cab, make a note of the company name and cab number. It’s our responsibility to call in a complaint of a bad driver. If a cab won’t leave until it is jam packed, simply leave the cab. Chances are there are plenty of others around, and, if you’re lucky, one might meet your standards. Lastly, if a cab driver puts you in a dangerous situation or engages in unsafe driving such as speeding and disobeying stop signs, it is crucial that you report it to NDSP and the South Bend Police.

When cab drivers continue to abuse students, we don’t need to subject ourselves to their terrible service. With Uber now in South Bend, we have another option. Uber drivers have a much better reputation on campus of respecting their customers, and the app’s fare-split feature makes it so an individual’s contribution to a group ride is comparable to the price of a cab.

The current practices of the taxi drivers that take advantage of Notre Dame students are unacceptable. We need to demand major changes, or stop giving them our service.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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