New lawsuit targets D.C. taxicab rules

November 6, 2013
D.C. taxicab drivers sign up to join the new Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association, which will be affiliated with Teamsters Local 922. (The Washington Post -- Lori Aratani)
D.C. taxicab drivers sign up to join the new Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association, which will be affiliated with Teamsters Local 922. (Lori Aratani/The Washington Post)

D.C.’s new Teamsters-affilliated cab drivers group has wasted no time raising its profile.

On Monday, less than a week after holding their first organization meeting, members of the group marched to the Wilson Building to deliver a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray protesting the city’s decision to impound taxis that failed to install new dome lights as required by Nov. 1. The group also demanded more representation on the eight-member D.C. Taxicab Commission. Currently, two taxicab drivers are members of the commission.

Late Tuesday, the group filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court asking a judge to temporarily stop the city from enforcing new rules that require drivers to have credit card readers in and new dome lights on their cabs. They characterized the new rules, which were adopted in 2012 as “arbitrary and capricious as applied to D.C. taxicab drivers . . .”

It also said the requirements impose serious financial hardships on drivers.

The plaintiffs include a number of cab drivers who have had their vehicles impounded because they did not have the proper dome lights installed. Unlike another lawsuit filed last month by a group of five drivers, the Teamsters lawsuit does not seek to have the new rules tossed out; rather it asks for officials to give drivers more time to comply until city officials can ensure that the credit card system functions properly and that a sufficient supply of dome lights is available

Officials at the D.C. Taxicab Commission said they had no comment on the new lawsuit.

This week’s actions by the Teamsters-affiliated group are part of a series of actions that D.C.’s cab drivers have taken against the new mandates, which D.C. Taxicab commission officials say are necessary to modernize the city’s taxicabs and make them more competitive with upstart services such at Uber and Lyft. The new rules are the most expansive overhaul of the city’s fleet in nearly three decades, and the changes have served to unify the District’s disparate cab drivers in ways rarely seen. But adoption of the new requirements has been hampered by a problem with the companies that provide the credit card readers and process the payments. Some drivers say they’ve waited weeks to receive credit card payments. D.C. officials initially approved 10 providers, but now only seven are available to work with drivers.

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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