Proposed New Taxicab Smart Meters. New Meters Include Credit Card Readers; Will Be Installed by End of Year

Photos courtesy of the Mayor’s office

From a press release:

Mayor Vincent C. Gray today announced that he is sending to the D.C. Council a proposed contract with VeriFone Systems, Inc., to install a Taxicab Smart Meter System in all of the District’s licensed cabs before the end of the year. The system will allow payment of fares by credit cards, driver verification, safety-response mechanisms, GPS tracking and other advanced features.

“The Taxicab Smart Meter System will make Washington’s taxicabs among the most advanced taxi fleets in the country,” said Mayor Gray. “It is another step toward bringing the District’s taxicab fleet into the 21st century. I ask the Council for a speedy approval of this contract, which will benefit drivers, riders and the general public.”

Under the $34.9 million contract, the District will lease the system for five years from VeriFone, which will install, maintain and operate it. Details of the system were developed by technical consultants for the D.C. Taxicab Commission.

The cost for installing the system as well as the operating costs of the D.C. Taxicab Commission will be paid for from a trust fund supported by a 50-cent-per-ride surcharge. The only cost to drivers will be a small installation fee. Under this user-fee system, general tax revenues will no longer be used for any Commission costs. This will save almost $4 million from the District’s general fund. It also means that the approximately 50 percent of riders who are not District residents will now be able to pay a share of the costs of administrating the taxicab industry and no longer ride on the pocketbooks of our residents.

The Mayor also pointed out that this is the second major step in the District’s comprehensive taxi-modernization program. The first was the adoption by the Taxicab Commission of a vehicle-modernization regulation to phase out all vehicles more than seven years old by 2018.

Additional changes to the District’s taxicab fleet to be phased in over the next few months include a one-color scheme and a substantial increase in the number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

41 Comment

  • Watch it “break.”

  • 50 cent surcharge = lame. Why don’t the recent taxi rate increase cover the surcharge? I don’t know of any other jurisdiction charging an extra fifty centy per ride (regardless of payment method) to install new POS hardware. Let the cabs cover the cost of the interchange fee.

  • Considering what happened in NYC I am not sure I am all that interested in using a credit card in a taxicab.

  • Let’s see, $0.50 charge per ride, or spend 10 minutes finding an ATM and pay $2.50 to withdraw cash whenever I want to take a cab? I think the winner is obvious.

  • DC taxis will never get it right. I can’t wait until Uber brings its Hybrid service to DC. I’ll never take a regular taxi again.

    “Uber, an App That Summons a Car, Plans a Cheaper Service Using Hybrids”

    • Uber is here. Not sure about hybrids, but they do have sedan service
      It is pretty great, but is of course pricier than cabs.

      • RE: Uber.

        Does anyone know if Uber drivers have to pass any sort of test in order to become Uber drivers? (I’m not talking about only passing a driver’s test to get a drivers license but DC taxicab drivers do, e.g., knowing the city). And do they have liability insurance so that, heaven forbid, if one were to get into a terrible accident, would the insurance cover any passenger injuries? Thanks for any helpful answers to my questions.

        • I don’t believe there is a “geography” test of any kind, but after each ride you get to rate the driver (via the Uber phone app). If the driver gets too many low ratings, Uber stops using them.

  • What about the proposal that all taxis are painted the same color? Did that pass? If so, what color did they decide on?

    • I thought it was hilarious that they sought public input on this and offered a choice of colors… and then Mayor Gray vetoed the public color choice (which I think was yellow — can’t remember) in favor of his own personal preference (red and silver, if I remember correctly).

      • I think it was red and white, to match the DC flag. I get your point, but do like the red & white idea.

  • I’d rather them find a way to upgrade the numerous death traps that pass for taxis in this town.

    • and upgarde the numerous sociopaths, rapists, cheats, and liars that drive them…

      • …and upgrade the numerous sociopaths, rapists, cheats, and liars who are driven around town in them.

  • Where are those touch screens going to fit in most taxis?! There is barely enough room with drivers having front seats pushed back and/or leaning back. NYC taxis have a “wall” where these fit, but not in DC. Will the regs require drivers make sure these are maintained & not “broken” (like Meg mentions)? btw, def in favor of the upgrade to accepting cards & others upgrades.

  • Lets get rid of all taxis. The only acceptable way of transportation in the city should be walking, biking, or public transportation. CASE CLOSED!

    • I’m sorry for the lost of your brain.

    • There was a Philadelphia architect, I believe, who had a vision of car-less (not careless, we already have those) urban centers. I know it’s difficult to wrap one’s brain around the concept, but I think of all the noise that is generated by cars/trucks and all the space allocated to supporting their use (roads, parking lots, gas stations, etc.), this vision doesn’t sound so bad. Of course there are certain cities that actually have parts of them inaccessible to cars, but it’s pretty much no existent here in the U.S.

  • “the approximately 50 percent of riders who are not District residents will now be able to pay a share of the costs of administrating the taxicab industry and no longer ride on the pocketbooks of our residents.”
    Works for me. Though I try to avoid taxis if at all possible.

  • Can DC just copy London and mandate Black Cabs? No need to redesign a perfectly working model – mandate and import them. Perhaps we’d have to put in a gasoline engine instead of a diesel but come on.
    The are handicap acessible, have a wall between driver and passenger, eliminate need for using trunk for small luggage, are iconic (okay we’d be stealing but…) and are PURPOSE built for a taxi.
    Giver opperators 3 years to update their car/fleet or lose liscense.

  • Meh – I wish we would do away with meters and go to the negotiating method like in some countries I’ve been to (Where you agree on a price before getting into the cab).

    Takes away the incentive to take the long way and results in no sudden fees, surcharges etc.

  • There is a major need for more cabs on weekend and holiday evenings. I realize we aren’t Manhattan where we need a major fleet of cars operating 24/7, but the in a ability to find a cab on H, U, 14, etc.. Streets had gotten ridiculous.

  • I just love these comments. Any time the subject is taxis, dogs, or babies, you know the ride is gonna be good.

  • pcat

    I recently took a cab in New Orleans that had a credit card reader. The driver refused to let me use a credit card, since he had to pay the 3% to the card company. I assume that this will happen here as well.

    • Then I’d say, okay, well, I don’t have cash. Guess you’re out of luck…

    • freakapotimus

      This happened to me all the time when I still lived in Philadelphia. Cab drivers would routinely tell me their meters were broken, or that the credit card system was down. I often didn’t carry cash on me, and late at night I’d rather argue with a cab driver than use an outdoor ATM. Although, one time, a driver locked me in the cab and started to drive me to an ATM when I told him I would be paying with my card. When I got my phone out to call the police, he let me out of the cab. I promptly called and complained to the cab company.

  • I guess I’m confused about why basic upgrades are being funded by a surcharge, instead of funded out of driver’s profits like every other business. Taxi drivers are WAY overpaid — just look at the long line of people who want to sign up for what is a zero skill job. Don’t want to invest in your business and keep up with requirments? Great. Find another career because there are 100 people who will take your place.

  • Does any one know if there is a proposal to outlaw the taxi drivers from talking on cellphones while transporting passengers? The decrepit cabs are dangerous in themselves, not to mention the cabbie using a party line to catch up with relatives on the other side of the world.

  • I can’t wait to hear the first cabbie ask me if I have cash through a cracked window, then zoom away when I say I don’t.

  • The cabbies are against the GPS. Don’t be surprised if that feature is dropped.

  • does the district have the equivalent of a sales tax for taxi rides? if so, they can remit the money straight to the district coffers with every ride.

  • brookland_rez

    I like this. Having a system like this goes a long way toward making the cab experience in DC consistent. I just wish the taxicab commission would do more to regulate the drivers. Cab drivers are some of the worst in my experience.

  • i don’t like the idea of using outdated technology. here we’re simply trying to catch up instead of some advanced planning. can these machines be fitted to accept Smartrip? or other forms of swipe payment?

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