IT MAY NOT be enough to send tremors through Taxi Zone One, but today the D.C. Council is scheduled to strike a blow for proper cab service in this city. Hail it.
If coupled with actions under consideration in the city's department of public works, the council's proposals could spell relief for passengers as well as those cabbies who work long and hard to make an honest buck. At least those who don't -- and who are contemptuous of the passengers' reasonable requests -- can expect a little more legal grief.
If approved with the additions and amendments talked about yesterday, the council measure would stiffen entry requirements as well as standards for staying in the business. New applicants would have to undergo a training course (including some lessons in geography, thank God) and a revised, stiffer examination. A point system similar to the one for other motor-vehicle drivers would be set up to monitor every driver's moving and cab violations and to determine suspensions and revocations; those whose licenses were suspended would have to take the training course as part of lifting the suspension, and those whose licenses were revoked would have to undergo the training and the new test. Another proposed provision would make the public records of each licensee's violation available to each cab association, so that fleet owners and passengers could monitor offenders.
Some provisions first considered have been dropped, but they are not essential if other regulations on the books are enforced -- and we'll get to that. For example, there would no limit on the number of drivers; and any new language concerning aliens would be dropped, since applicants' names already are being routinely forwarded to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which has its own work rules and limitations.
Back to enforcement, which is critical: Nothing the council says or does will mean a thing without more inspectors -- and herein lies a job for the department of public works, which we're told is on the case. Right now, there are four -- yes, four -- inspectors for roughly 11,000 cabs. Plans apparently call for either forming a force similar to that which now monitors meters or for adding taxi inspectors to the existing parking-ticket troop. The more the better.
There's talk, too, of speedier hearings and dispositions of complaints, and of larger, more visible photos of the drivers on those licenses that you are supposed to see clearly from the back seat.
So maybe help is finally on the way.