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D.C. taxi commission approves fare increase

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Cab riders in the District will soon pay more for most trips after the D.C. Taxicab Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to give final approval to a fare hike that’s been in the works for months.

Ron Linton, the commission’s chairman, said that barring an unexpected “bureaucratic glitch,” the fare increase will go into effect April 21.

Under the proposal, the base fare will remain $3, but the mileage rate will increase to $2.16 per mile from $1.50. Surcharges for baggage and additional passengers remain, but they have been modified.

Linton said Wednesday’s action does not affect the $1 gas surcharge, which has been authorized through June 20.

While Linton and others have expressed interest in tying fare increases to service improvements — particularly mandatory credit card payment systems — those upgrades await the D.C. Council’s action on a bill introduced by council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and supported by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D).

Cheh held a hearing on the bill in late January, attracting dozens of drivers who objected to the legislation, and she says she’s ready to move forward. Her spokeswoman, Kiara Pesante, said Cheh is hoping to schedule a markup on the bill within the next month.

Gray proposes setting up a special fund for cab modernization, to be filled by a new surcharge on taxi rides that would be set by the commission.

Meanwhile, cab riders will start paying up.

Linton said that not all cabs will be charging the higher fares on April 21. Some taxi meters can be preprogrammed so the new fares take effect on that day, he said; drivers whose cabs use other meters will have to go to one of seven authorized shops for recalibration after the new fares go into effect.

“Some riders are going to get a break for about a week,” Linton said.

Under the new fare program, riders will pay 50 cents for “each piece of luggage the operator places in his or her trunk.” Presently, passengers pay 50 cents for each bag “handled by the driver” beyond the first. “Briefcases, purses, bags of groceries and parcels of similar size” would be exempted from the luggage charge.

An extra-passenger surcharge would also remain. But instead of $1.50 for each passenger beyond the first riding in cabs, drivers of vans — and vans only — could charge $1 each for their second rider and beyond.

Fees for the dismissal of a cab hailed by phone ($1.50), the hauling of “[t]runks or similar-sized large articles” ($2), the hauling of small animals not enclosed in a carrier ($1) and the “personal service” of a cab driver ($2) are removed entirely.

Fares during a declared snow emergency would rise significantly, from the current 125 percent of the metered fare, to the metered fare plus $15.

debonism@washpost.com

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