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TAXI METER DISPUTE

Cabdrivers' Coalition Appeals Court Decision

Kelly Pete, a cabdriver, looks through her taxi owner's manual in an attempt to help technicians figure out the wiring and install a meter.
Kelly Pete, a cabdriver, looks through her taxi owner's manual in an attempt to help technicians figure out the wiring and install a meter. (By Giuliana Nakashima -- The Washington Post)
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By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 26, 2008

The District's cabdrivers filed an appeal yesterday with the D.C. Court of Appeals in a final effort to overturn the order requiring the city's cabs to install meters by May 1.

The appeal came after D.C. Superior Court Judge Brook Hedge denied yesterday the drivers' request for an injunction to block implementation of a meter system. Earlier this week, Hedge had ruled that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) had the authority to order the District's nearly 7,000 cabs to switch from zones to time-and-distance meters. Drivers without the meters could face $1,000 fines beginning June 1.

Yesterday's hearing, which was attended by nearly a dozen cabdrivers, was a necessary step to begin the appeal process, said Jeffrey B. O'Toole, attorney for the D.C. Coalition of Cab Drivers, Companies and Associations. O'Toole argued for an injunction to delay the changeover until the appellate court hears the case, which he said could take two or three weeks.

In denying the request, Hedge said the drivers "failed to meet the necessary standards" for granting the injunction, including proving that drivers would suffer irreparable harm and that the public interest would be served by the delay.

Hedge said that as many cabs begin installing the $300 to $500 meters, there could be some confusion among customers who discover that some cabs have the meters and some are still charging based on zones. "There will be a disruption in the marketplace, as is true with any change," the judge said.

Before ending the hearing, Hedge -- aware of O'Toole's appeal plans -- told the lawyer to "take your next course."

Later, O'Toole tried to encourage cabdrivers who were disheartened by the ruling. He said he was "disappointed" in Hedge's ruling but not "surprised."

Outside D.C. Superior Court, several drivers said they were not against all meters. One, Wesen Telila, said he would prefer that cabs be allowed to install zone meters rather than time-and-distance meters. The zone meters, Telila said, would identify rates as the cab travels between zones.

Peter Nickles, the District's interim attorney general, who argued before Hedge, said he was pleased with Hedge's decision. Nickles said the injunction request and appeal were "merely an effort to delay" the switch.


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