Mayor Marion Barry told a group of D.C. taxi drivers yesterday that he supports their request for an additional 20 percent fare increase.

"It is not unreasonable for the taxi drivers to be asking for a 20 percent increase in fares," Barry said, following a 20-minute meeting with representatives of the Alliance of Taxicab Businessmen. "I see this as a cost of living adjustment," Barry said, citing increase in the cost of tires, gas and new vehicles.

Encouraged by Barry's support, alliance president Frederick J. Conway said the group, composed of about 600 of the city's estimated 10,000 taxi drivers, would postpone a rally scheduled for today where a strike vote was to be taken.

The city's Public Service Commission, which sets taxi rates, granted the drivers an interim 9.5 percent increase three weeks ago, but Barry and the drivers agree the hackers need an even larger raise.

"I intend to be a lobbyist in this regard," Barry said, adding he would urge the PSC to quickly issue a permanent order with the additional 20 percent increase.

D.C. City Councilman John Ray (D-At-large, who arranged yesterday's meeting said the drivers had also asked for more police protection and expressed concern about the growing number of foreign students driving cabs.