A taxicab rate increase of about 10 percent, the first rise in cab fares in the District of Columbia in nearly three years, was approved yesterday by the D.C. Public Service Commission, to be effective Sunday.

With the increase, the cost of a one-zone trip within downtown Washington will rise from $1.10 to $1.20. The cost of a four-zone trip, from downtown Washington to such outlying areas as Chevy Chase Circle or Congress Heights, will rise from $2.75 to $3.

Although an organization of cab drivers originally had sought a stopgap 10 percent increase and early consideration of a larger permanent rise, the industry later raised its interim request to 20 percent.

When two of the three PSC members refused the higher figure yesterday, citing President Carter's 9.5 percent guideline for most price increases, cabbies angrily stalked out of the meeting room complaining that they were the victims -- not the cause -- of inflation. Their leaders promised to mobilize to win the higher figure.

"Ripoff, ripoff, ripped off again," shouted Jack Dembo, who drivers for Yellow Cab. "We're going to have a mass strike, mark my words."

Unlike cab drivers in many cities, who are employes of taxi companies. Washington hackers generally own their own cabs or rent them, paying the operating costs and keeping what is left over as profit.

There are currently about 6,800 cabs on city streets, down from a peak of about 8,000. Many drivers attribute the decline to the expansion of the Metro subway system.

William R. Stratton, the only PSC member who supported an immediated 20 percent increase, said the presidential price guideline should not be applied until cab drivers catch up with three years of rises in the cost of automobiles, gasoline, tires and insurance.

But the other two PSC members, Ruth Hankins-Nesbit and chairman Elizabeth H. Patterson, said the higher figures can be considered at future hearings.

There was no precise estimate of how much revenue the increase will produce. Hankins-Nesbit made the estimate that the amount will be within the presidential 9.5 percent guideline.

The new rates leave the zone system for fare calculation untouched. A one-zone ride will rise from $1.10 to $1.20, two zones from $1.65 to $1.80, three zones from $2.20 to $2.40 and four zones from $2.75 to $3. The longest possible ride, eight zones from the extreme north end of the city to the extreme south end, would rise from $4.95 to $5.40.

The fare for a ride within one of the four subzones of the downtown Zone 1 will rise from 90 cents to $1.

The cost for each additional passenger in a group traveling together will rise from 50 to 65 cents. The rush-hour surcharge for weekday travel between 4 and 6:30 p.m. will remain at 50 cents.

After yesterday's meeting, Frederick J. Conway, president of the Allied Taxicab Businessmen -- which sought the fare increase -- said a rally for the higher fare will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at 525 New Jersey Ave. NW.