The city can continue rolling out its new “smart meter” system in D.C. taxicabs for now, a Superior Court judge ruled Monday.
One of the losing bidders in the meter contract, Creative Mobile Technologies, sued last week to stop the installation of winner VeriFone’s meter system at least through the end of this week — when a Contract Appeals Board judge is set to decide whether the installations can proceed.
At a court hearing Friday afternoon, lawyer A. Scott Bolden argued on CMT’s behalf that allowing the installation of VeriFone meters to continue would make it harder for the city to reverse course if the contract is later judged improper.
“Arguably, once the horse is out of the barn, you can’t get it back,” Bolden said.
But District lawyers argued that the Contract Appeals Board has not historically been shy about invalidating contracts and making losing bidders whole, and that, moreover, CMT hadn’t proven it would be harmed in any way if the installations continued.
Judge Laura A. Cordero agreed in her ruling : “[E]vidence presented at the hearing ... showed that very few meters are currently being installed and will be installed in the next five business days,” she wrote. “Furthermore, there is no indication that any expense in removing [VeriFone] meters, if this relief is indeed ordered by the CAB, would be borne by [CMT].”
Monday’s ruling doesn’t mean clear sailing for the new meter system, which includes credit-card and satellite navigation features. The contract protests filed by CMT and fellow competitor RideCharge continue; the CAB ruling expected later this week could also halt the system’s installation while the wrangling over the contract is resolved — a process expected to last through October.
Bolden did not immediately return a call for comment. [UPDATE, 5:55 P.M.: Bolden said his client’s challenge is “not over yet.”
“We still have some levels of review to go through, and we’re going to exercise all of our legal options,” he said — including returning to Superior Court for a restraining order if the appeals board declines to issue a stay this week.]
If the rollout of VeriFone’s system continues uninterrupted, the meters could be installed in all of the city’s approximately 6,500 cabs by November, city officials said.