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Posted at 02:32 PM ET, 12/19/2011

The D.C. taxi reform bill, in detail


(Jeffrey MacMillan)
A draft of the D.C. taxi reform bill has been released. A few notes:

• Expect a lot of attention on this provision: “The District of Columbia Taxicab Commission is authorized to establish a public vehicle-for-hire licensing quota which provides that the number of new taxicab vehicle licenses may be limited, after making a determination that the market is saturated with taxi vehicles and would benefit from a stabilization or reduction of new vehicles.” It’s not a medallion system exactly, but it’s close. The bill would also allow the commission to set a driver quota.

• The hard deadlines for improvements are as follows: Owners would have one year from enactment date to install card readers, GPS devices, “panic buttons” and uniform roof lights that “clearly identify when a taxicab is occupied, on-call, off-duty, or available to accept a fare.” Companies would have four years to expand their fleets of wheelchair-accessible cabs.

• The mayor, not the Taxicab Commission, would be charged with deciding whether cabs should be a single color and which color that should be. All cabs will also have “an emblem symbolizing the flag of the District of Columbia”; taxi companies would be allowed to have an unique insignia on their cabs. The deadline would be one year from enactment.

• We’re not just talking about credit-card readers and GPS here. The law would digitize record keeping within a year, mandating devices that send trip data to the commission in real time and “can record and report all fares and earnings for tax purposes.” Expect big time pushback from the cab industry on this; it means real financial accountability for the first time.

• Currently, a certain number of Taxicab Commission seats are reserved for those with expertise in “taxicab industry operations.” That would be broadened to “the field of transportation administration or regulations, the hospitality industry, public safety, or taxicab management or operations.”

• The bill would establish a minimum of 20 hack inspectors. Currently, there are fewer than 15 inspectors budgeted. The inspectors would be subject to new and ongoing training.

• A surcharge-funded “Public Vehicles-for-Hire Consumer Service Fund” would be established “exclusively for the purpose of paying the costs of the Commission,” which would set the surcharge. The fund could be used to offset the cost of the act’s mandates via grants or low-interest loans.

• A new driver training course would cover the following: “The geography of the District, with particular emphasis on major streets and avenues throughout the District of Columbia, significant government buildings, attractions, destinations, restaurants, and tourist sites, and historical knowledge of the District of Columbia” ... “Public relations skills, including cultural awareness and sensitivity training, appropriate social customs and courtesies which should be extended to the public, conflict resolution, and knowledge of the hospitality industry” ... “Driving skills and knowledge of the rules of the road.” Would-be drivers would have to pass an exam of no fewer than 100 questions.

• The bill would establish a “point” system for drivers and owners. Violations of laws and regulations would be given a point value, and after a certain number of points, a driver’s or company owner’s license could be suspended.

• New among the aims of the D.C. taxi regulatory scheme: to “[f]oster good will and a cooperative spirit among the taxicab industry, the government, the hospitality industry, and the public”; and to “[p]romote policies of energy conservation, the reduction of pollution ... the reduction of traffic congestion, and policies that promote a more livable city”; and to “[p]rovide reasonable access to wheelchair accessible taxicabs.”

The bill in full:

By  |  02:32 PM ET, 12/19/2011

 
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