D.C. City Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At large) said yesterday the city's Public Service Commission should have held public hearings before it voted to give taxi riders the authority to decide whether a cab driver can pick up additional fares.
"I have a serious concern that the Public Service Commission made a decision having broad impact without allowing the kind of public hearing and debate such a decision warrants," Kane said.
Over the strong objections of the city's taxi industry, the commission on Tuesday rescinded an earlier rule, passed during the 1973 gasoline crisis, that gave cab drivers the authority to decide whether to take multiple fares. The change, which is expected to take effect in about two weeks, gives passengers the authority to decide whether the cab in which they are riding may pick up additional fares.
Taxi drivers said the change is unnecessary and will cut their incomes.
Melvin L. Doxie, the commission's executive director, said yesterday that the commission was not required to hold public hearings on rule changes and had decided instead to solicit written comments.
He said virtually the entire taxi industry submitted written statements to the commission opposing the change, and that members "felt the companies in their written comments had basically laid out their arguments."
No significant written response was received from the public, he said.
The PSC said the change was designed to benefit the public, and Doxie said the action followed telephone complaints about cab sharing.
Kane said that she was unaware of any large public demand for changing the policy and "there appears to be no effort on the part of the commission to document any complaints about the practice."
Kane, who chairs the council committee that oversees the PSC, has summoned the commission to appear Wednesday to explain the decision.
She said she believes the change might further reduce the incentive for taxi drivers to travel out of downtown and pick up passengers in the city's far Northeast and Southeast.