Taxi Commission makes it official: Credit cards in all D.C. cabs by Aug. 31


Officials say the new system will be fair to drivers and passengers alike. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

It seemed this day might never come, but here we are: The D.C. Taxicab Commission voted Wednesday to publish regulations requiring all city cabs to accept credit and debit card payments by Aug. 31.

Assuming some other hiccup doesn’t arise in the coming weeks — which is not out of the realm of possibility, given the star-crossed nature of this endeavor — cab owners will start installing commission-approved “modern taximeter systems” on June 1. They will have three months to come into compliance.

The new regulations include some fare changes that will make most rides more expensive. The base fare will be raised June 1 from $3 to $3.25 and an additional-passenger fee of $1 per rider [clarification: the fee is $1 for all additional riders beyond the first] is being re-instituted after a yearlong hiatus. A new 25-cent-per-ride surcharge will also be collected to pay for the commission’s various costs. All other fees, such as baggage fees, have been eliminated, with the exception of telephone dispatch and snow emergency charges, and cabs are not permitted to pass on transaction fees to their riders.

The increased charges are meant to offset the costs to drivers for installing the new systems. The commission has estimated the average annual cost for the new system at $970 per vehicle; transaction fees account for roughly half of that, with installation, maintenance and wireless fees accounting for the rest. Besides the new fees, the commission projects that universal credit-card acceptance will boost driver revenue, based on experiences in other jurisdictions.

Ron M. Linton, the chairman of the Taxicab Commission, said he has certified at least nine vendors to handle taxi payments.

“While initially it had been determined that a single vendor was the appropriate way to implement the transition to a cashless system, the level of competition in the marketplace made it more practical to allow drivers and owners to have a choice,” the commission said in findings published Wednesday.

Credit card systems, as well as new animated dome lights, are the first phase of taxi improvements, Linton said. By Dec. 1, cabs will also feature new “personal information monitors” offering news, tourism information and public service announcements, and by June of next year, will offer “panic buttons” to summon help if a driver or rider needs it.

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 · May 8, 2013