Take a good, close look — it may be months before you see one up close. (Mike DeBonis/The Washington Post)

Judge Monica Parchment of the Contract Appeals Board ordered the the city’s $35 million meter contract with VeriPhone Systems put on hold while she resolves protests filed by a pair of losing bidders.

Parchment’s order was not made public Friday, because it must be reviewed to make sure it does not include any trade secrets or proprietary information. But two persons involved in the case confirmed the order requires meter installations to cease immediately.

The protesting bidders, Creative Mobile Technologies and RideCharge, went to Superior Court last week asking that it order the city to cease work more quickly, but a judge declined to do so. Only a few dozen of the new meters have thus far been installed.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) heralded the installation of the first meter at a news conference earlier this month and played down concerns that the pending appeals could derail the VeriFone contract.

Ron Linton, chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission, had estimated that all 6,500 city cabs could have the new equipment by November, in time for his personal goal of having the system featuring credit-card readers and satellite navigation in place for the presidential inauguration.

Now, in the best-case scenario for smart meter advocates, that goal will be cut close.

Parchment has told attorneys in the case that the protest will be resolved by October. If she upholds the VeriFone award, the estimated 90-day window for meter installation will close sometime in January.

If she orders the contract rejudged or resolicited, forget about it: It will be spring before any cabs will see additional smart meters.