About a dozen cabdrivers gathered on the steps of the District Building yesterday to announce their opposition to the D.C. Taxicab Commission's proposed fare increase of 40 cents a ride.

The drivers, members of the Communications Workers of America, said they supported instead a proposal made last month by their union to the commission for a 30-cent-a-zone increase.

"On Thursday, we are asking cabdrivers to turn their lights on as a show of unity for a fair {rate} increase," said Steve Hern, a union representative. Hern said that 2,000 to 3,000 of the 10,000 drivers will drive with their lights on today.

David Watson, spokesman for the commission, said a rate proposal made by cab company owner Dan Smith calling for a per-zone increase has gathered the support of several other major cab company owners as well as the Hotel Association of D.C.

The deadline for public comment on the proposal was Dec. 13.

Smith's proposal was to increase the fare by 23 percent per zone, which would mean an increase as little as 30 cents for a single-zone ride and as much as $1.85 for an eight-zone ride.

The commission is expected to vote in mid-January on one of several rate proposals presented to the board at the public hearing.