The new D.C. Taxi Commission imposed a 120-day moratorium on licensing new taxicabs yesterday, a move commission Chairman Arrington L. Dixon said was designed to halt an expected sudden influx of cabs.

Dixon said he did not expect the commission's action to adversely affect the public because there are already about 10,000 licensed cabs on the streets of Washington, more per capita than any other city in the country.

He said the moratorium was necessary to prevent taxi companies from flooding the city with thousands of extra cabs in anticipation that expected action by the commission changing taxi licensing regulations could include a permanent limit on the number of cabs.

"During our newness as a commission, a number of cabs will try to come into the District," said Dixon, a former D.C. Council chairman. "We were told that two companies were going to bring more than 2,000 cabs to Washington in the near future."

Dixon said the three-month hiatus will be used not only to rethink licensing standards for taxicabs but also to reorganize the hacker's bureau, design a new test for drivers and consider a new fare system.

Formation of the new commission was approved last year by the D.C. Council to consolidate regulation of the much-criticized taxi industry, which had been dispersed among seven city agencies.

After a lengthy battle over the selection of the 13 members, the commission held its first meeting June 24, voting to increase tenfold the fines for driving a cab without a license, refusing to pick up a customer and refusing to obey a hack inspector.

Yesterday's moratorium decision displeased at least one of the commission members. William Wright, a D.C. cab industry veteran, said the commission's action moves the city a step closer to what he sees as an eventual limit on the number of cabs and drivers allowed in the city.

"There is not a need for a moratorium," he said. "Any investigation the commission wanted to do could have been done without a moratorium. This will only lead to a limit on the number of drivers and that will mean fewer jobs for black people."

Wright said he was the only commissioner to object to the moratorium when it was discussed at a meeting Tuesday. It was the commission's "rates and rules panel" that voted for it yesterday.

"It just isn't fair not to give drivers some warning before you change the rules," he said. "I know one guy who was taking a new cab though inspection today and I had to tell him to forget it because he wouldn't be able to get a license for it."

Wright also said he had been unfairly tagged as an obstructionist who opposed change within the taxicab industry.

"I am in favor of change," he said. "I have made a number of proposals to the commission, including {providing} better zone maps with identifiable landmarks such as the White House, publicize the names of drivers who are fined or suspended, and set a fare from the airport to various hotels."

Dixon said the moratorium was meant only to create study time for the commissioners and it was not his intention that it would lead to a limit on the number of drivers or cabs in the city.

"We are only trying to stabilize the industry until we can get a handle on it," he said.