INTO OUR scrapbook of war stories with taxis we go for this painfully familiar curbside pageant: you are the only person on the block, plainly visible from just about anywhere within cabshot, and there is an obviously passengerless taxi heading toward you, and you begin your vigorous in-street waves and gyrations to snare this hacker. But your hail prompts his farewell: with lightning speed, up goes one of his hands -- along with a card that says "On Call" or "Off Duty." This is sometimes topped off with a Tony Award-winning shrug as the driver steps on the gas. Any recourse?

Not a lot -- until now. The D.C. Taxicab Commission, which has been toughening up the city's standards and sanctions, voted Thursday night to prohibit drivers from keeping those signs within reach while working; and the group also established a $100 fine for drivers who refuse to transport a customer -- another all-too-familiar occurrence around town. This means that when a passenger getting in a cab downtown gives a destination in the outer city neighborhoods, the driver who refuses to move can lose $100 instead of taking in perhaps $4.75 plus tip.

True, cabbies weren't allowed to do this anyway. But with only a handful of inspectors for the whole city and no serious punishment, scofflaw drivers could pass all sorts of illegal judgments on your choice of destination.

In general, the commission's new policies, along with help from the police and the public, seem to have scared some of the worst lawbreakers off the streets -- at least for a while. In addition, the procedures for making complaints and getting responses have been improved.

But good enforcement still requires more inspectors and more people to move complaints along -- which Congress should consider as it acts on the commission's budget request. Members of this commission -- some of whom have been more concerned about their standing and stipends as commissioners than about acting forcefully and in public sessions -- could help the cause, too, by supporting Chairman Arrington Dixon's efforts to move things alon