Is the District targeting Uber Black drivers? 7 ON YOUR SIDE Investigative Reporter Scott Taylor dives into complaints about profiling that has some drivers upset and facing thousands of dollars in fines.
The I-Team watched as an Uber Black driver dropped off his passenger in the heart of the District and quickly gets pulled over by an enforcement officer with D.C.'s For Hire Vehicle Department.
"Why did you pull him over?" ABC7 News asked.
"Safety and compliance inspection," An enforcement officer said.
"Why was that?" ABC7 News asked.
"We can do that," The enforcement officer said.
Uber Black drivers say random stops by enforcement officers are creating tension on the streets.
"Of course they are profiling us," Kamran Mahdi, who drives for Uber Black, said. "Of course we know that."
Drivers say they are getting hit with multiple citations during a single stop.
"$3,700 in tickets. I can't pay that," Mahdi said.
The citations include: failing to provide a manifest, loitering in a taxi or limo area, unlicensed D.C. limo operator and more.
"Four tickets in and you are already over a $1,000," Taylor said to Uber Black driver Khalid Khan.
“I'm not done. Limousine owner permitting unlicensed operator $500," Khan said.
The I-Team discovered D.C.'s database that tracks tickets needs an upgrade. It only tracks two groups, one for taxi cabs and everyone else is tossed into another group.
As of Friday, the District had no idea how many tickets are being handed out specifically to Uber Black drivers.
D.C.'s For Hire Vehicle Department Director Ernest Chrappah says he hasn't received any official complaints.
"Do you think your enforcement officers target Uber Black drivers?" Taylor asked Chrappah.
"No. They are not trained to do it. It is illegal. What they do is apply the law evenhandedly to everyone,"Chrappah said.
Last year, enforcement officers wrote more than 15,000 tickets. Approximately 581 citations, or only three percent, included Uber, Lyft and other private for hire vehicles.
"He towed away my car and the cost of everything came into the thousands," Humberto Misteroni, who has driven for Uber Black, said.
"DCTC has to change their tactics. These are old tactics. 50 years ago. 60 years ago," Mahdi said.
Creating more tension? Only during rush hour and with a Special Event decal due to Safe Track can Uber Black pick up and drop off without leaving D.C.
“Extremely difficult to a point I don't even want to go thru DC," Misteroni said.
After ABC7 News started asking questions about Uber Black citations, Chrappah created a program that allows drivers a voice.
"We launched the Ombudsman program," Chrappah said. "If you have an encounter with a vehicle inspection officer and you feel something was off, you have the right to report it to us confidentially and we will investigate."
Chrappah admits the department needs to do a better job.
“The Government doesn't need to know everything. However, being in a position where we can inform the public about the disproportionate number of tickets is something that is worth pursuing," Chrappah said.
Uber DC and the District recently reached an agreement to resolve $986,000 worth of contested citations.
Following the agreement, Uber DC and the District both released statements. Read them below:
Uber DC spokesperson: “With this agreement, Uber DC and the DFHV have made substantive progress toward resolving legacy issues on behalf of the black car drivers who choose to partner with us. At the same time, we’re working together to make meaningful contributions toward a better, smarter, and more inclusive local transportation system in the District.”
D.C. Department of For-Hire Vehicles: “The resolution to legacy ride sharing regulatory compliance issues builds trust and fosters a climate of cooperation between regulated entities and the regulator. This settlement builds on the efforts of DFHV to ensure that residents and visitors continue to have access to safe, affordable, and accessible transportation. As part of the agreement, Uber will contribute $25,000 to increase access to wheelchair accessible transportation services and $240,000 to help reduce costs and encourage more shared rides on uberPOOL to and from DC metro stations. Uber will also pay an additional $160,000 to the District to resolve this outstanding issue.”