This gadget will soon be on top of all D.C. cabs

March 21, 2013

(D.C. Taxicab Commission)

Besides the mandatory credit-card readers, there’s another big change coming to D.C. taxicabs in the coming months: A new standardized dome light — one that should make it a lot easier to determine if a cab on the street is available for hire.

The taxi reform law that went into effect in October gave the D.C. Taxicab Commission one year to require “uniform cruising lights that clearly display a taxicab’s identification number, as well as identify when a taxicab is occupied, on-call, off-duty, or available to accept a fare.”

Earlier this year, the D.C. Taxicab Commission issued specifications for the new light, featuring a illuminated four-digit ID number for the vehicle next to a scrolling LED display that could read “TAXI FOR HIRE,” “TAXI ON CALL” or “TAXI OFF DUTY” depending on the cab’s status. When a cab is transporting a fare, the display would be blank.

Several manufacturers have expressed interest in producing the new light, said commission chairman Ron M. Linton, and the cost to cab owners is anticipated to “a couple of hundred dollars” per taxi.

Like with the credit-card readers, Linton said, the commission is expecting fare tweaks passed by the commission Wednesday — a 25-cent hike in the base rate, offset by a 25-cent cut to a proposed commission surcharge, plus a $1 additional-passengers fee — to mitigate the driver burden. “Our calculations are the revenues will be sufficient to cover that cost,” he said.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis | March 21, 2013