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Taxicab Commission To Require English For Capital’s Cabbies

September 2, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Tourists visiting the nation’s capital for the first time are often astounded that many cab drivers not only know nothing about the city’s rich history, but don’t even speak its language.

The District of Columbia’s Taxicab Commission has decided to do something about the problem, and from now on applicants for a hacker’s license will be required to undergo an elementary English-speaking test. Currently, applicants are required to take a written English exam, but their ability to converse is not tested.

The new screening test would consist of a set of requests that a passenger might pose, to see if applicants understand them.

But the new rule does not cover the district’s estimated 10,000 licensed cabbies, hundreds of whom don’t speak English. Many of the drivers come from African and Asian nations.

Hotel managers have complained that the district’s taxi service is ″horrendous,″ and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate panel that oversees the district’s budget, has described the capital’s cab service as one of the worst in the world.

The city’s 12-member taxicab commission was established earlier this year to improve the quality of the service.

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