Dear PoPville – What’s the Status on Credit Card Readers in Taxi Cabs? And What’s up with the New Signs?


“Dear PoPville,

Does anyone know the status of the deadline for cabs to have credit card readers? I thought it was October 1. Was that extended? I have seen a lot of cabs without them. How about the new signs on top of the car?”


From the DC Taxi Commission on Sept. 27th:

“Although no extension of the deadline was granted, DCTC did agree to review the specific hardship circumstances provided only through DC Drivers United for Equal Rights to determine if any relief would be warranted.

DCTC is projecting about 5,100 taxis will be equipped with MTS by October 1; which represents 80 percent of the active fleet.”

For those who’ve taken taxis recently – did yours have a credit car reader?

About the new signs up top from the DC Taxi Commission:

“All licensed DC taxicabs are required to have the new standardized dome light installed by November 1, 2013. Vehicles found not in compliance will be impounded. An owner whose vehicle is impounded for failure to have a dome light will be required to pay all fees and costs associated with impoundment. The new standardized dome light will display the Public Vehicle Identification Number (PVIN) which is a combination of one letter and three numbers. See below for the list of approved installation companies to order and schedule installation of the new standardized dome light and answers to several frequently asked questions regarding the PVIN as it relates to the new standardized dome light.”

29 Comment

  • I was in a taxi on Monday that had what seemed to be a brand new credit card reader in it.

  • Glad to see the Taxicab Commission obsessively enforces pointless rules like the dome light and whether cab drivers are dressed nicely enough, while things that actually matter to customers like credit card readers, more competition with lower fares and better service, are either not enforced or opposed. Time for the bums at the DCTC to go!

  • I have to say the commission screwed this one up. Given an opportunity to make taking a cab as easy and seamless as in NYC, they instead allowed drivers to choose a machine where you actually have to wait for and sign a paper receipt.

  • I’ve been in the taxis with a couple of different credit card machines. Two of the guys didn’t yet know how to use the square. I tried to be patient and let them use me as a guinea pig to test it out, but after 2 minutes of trying to help them figure it out, I just handed them cash.

  • The cab I was in recently used a Galaxy Tab and a card reader. The card reader refused to work. The drive pulled out his “backup” and swiped my card with his Bank of America card swipe. Worked the first time. He grumbled and said, “I don’t mind taking credit cards…but you see (pointing to the defective cc reader) the junk DC makes us use”

    • Or he could have chosen to install the type of reader that Red Top uses – a stand alone machine, not a piece of junk attached to a tablet.

      Cabbies have no one to blame other than themselves for insisting on having a variety of vendors and styles to choose from.

  • I saw one of the new dome lights this week, I like them. They can have the messages change and you can always see what a taxi coming towards you is free, now it is hard to tell if they are coming against the sunlight.

    There will be no fines or impoundments, we all know that. The commission will simply not SEE any drivers not in compliance. The Taxi Cab commission is as corrupt as the Metro Transit System, its all about who you pay off and never about the customer.

    Boy I lovz me some ubers though, it ain’t cheap but you know you the man when you ride it. For a short ride I might put up with a Taxi but for anything across town I’ll pay the extra few bucks for a safe, clean, respectable ride. Uber, pick me up!

  • What happens if you’re in cab who doesnt have a credit card reader and you dont have cash?

    • justinbc

      Tell him about your specific hardship of being unable to pay.

    • I’ve taken two since the rule went into effect. The first had a “broken” credit card reader and neither me nor my out of town friend had cash. I told the cabbie I’d report him, he got upset and told my friend to get cash at an ATM. We just walked away.

      The second cabbie was extremely friendly until I pulled out my credit card at the end of the trip. I insisted on using it and he relented, but based on the reaction so far, there must have been some serious tax evasion going on. I can’t otherwise understand the aversion to a technology that’s been around for decades.

      • ding! ding! ding!

        Just like restaurant waiters who under report tips, i’m sure they only report the bare minimum.

      • Do they get charged a big fee for using credit cards? I cold see that being a reason they would rather be paid in cash.

        • saf

          They do.

          I have to say, the “oooooh, they don’t want to pay tax,” thing makes me nuts. I used to be a waitress and a bartender. I always tip in cash. Yes, it allows the unscrupulous to under-report income. But I remember managers who help credit card tips for up to a month. And I worked one place that would take a cut of the tip (for the fee, you know.).

          • Agreed – there are lots of good reasons to work in cash only. Not blaming anyone, just saying.

      • i rarely carry cash (and rarely take cabs), but i am curious to know… is it legal at this point to not pay a taxi driver if they do not accept a credit card (or if the machine is “broken”)? is there an official statement about this somewhere that can be referenced?

        • It’s like DC metrobus. If the smarttrip card reader is broken you don’t have to pay in cash… :o)

  • I’ve taken 2 or 3 cabs since the deadline. Every cab, I’ve asked to use my card, every driver has said the machine isn’t working.

    I expected this so had cash on hand, but it’s annoying. Seems pretty antiquated that you can’t use a card. And I don’t really like fighting with the drivers in case they’re unhinged and try to drive off with me, ya know?

    • Then tell him he doesn’t get paid. It’s that simple. It’s his responsibility to go on the job with a working system of payment. He shouldn’t be driving if he can’t comply. If he wants to go complain, I welcome the excuse that, less than a month after he installed the system, it doesn’t work and you should be forced to bend to his inability to comply with the new regulation.

  • I take cabs often and 80% of them have had the credit card machines in them. Only twice have I actually needed to use it (usually have cash) and it was working both times. One driver was using the Square device on his phone or tablet and it worked fine and I didn’t have to sign anything. The second used the swiper on the meter and I had to sign a receipt (which is stupid).

    I’ve also had one driver alert me as soon as I opened the door that he was cash only, even though he clearly had the device hooked to the seat and it was clearly working the entire time. Luckily I had cash, so did not have to argue with him over it.

    It is a shame we finally get these machines in cabs, but the cabs are still mostly run down and old and the machines seems like very basic, poorly made pieces of technology. New York City and Boston make us look terrible when it comes to cabs.

    I try very hard to only get a new cab with the new dome lights just to try to drive my little tiny amount of business to the drivers who bother to get a new car and play by the rules. That, or I Uber.

  • Stick with Uber! I usually use Uber cabs, but have started using UberX when I can. You don’t need a credit card or cash. No need to ever get into non-uber affiliated cab again

  • Why introduce a “Public Vehicle Identification Number (PVIN) which is a combination of one letter and three numbers”? Each taxi already has a unique license plate number that identifies that vehicle as being a taxi (H-12345 or 12345-H numbering formats, the H being the historic designation in D.C. derived from “hackney”). New York taxi license plates match the medallion number; it would make more sense to have just one identifying number per taxi, no?

  • saf

    I have to ask – how many of you live in Petworth?

    Because I don’t take cabs much. Not only do they scare the hell out of me with their driving, they won’t come to my house.

    So I don’t really care much about how to pay them.

    • I live in Petworth. I’m not sure about scheduling a cab, but I’m never able to find a cab to hail. I had a broken foot once, and waited around for 15 minutes at Georgia and NH… Not one cab. When I lived in Dupont there were always a billion driving up and down NH.

      I just use uber. Altho one time when I had to go to National I scheduled Red Top. I couldn’t believe they would pick up in Petworth. As far as cabs go I usually have good experience with Red Top.

  • So I had a long conversation with a cabby last night about all of this. He had one of the official card systems they are permitted to chose from. He had points which, even though I am no fan of DC taxis, I actually understand.

    He used to use Square. (Now not supposed to be permitted) It worked every time and was relatively inexpensive to operate. The new system, as with most credit card machines, requires monthly fees and per transaction fees. DC apparently tacks on its own set of fees because, well you know, why shouldn’t the Taxi Commission rake in some dough. As a result, out of $300 in receipts, $70 in fees are coming out. For them, that is a HUGE deal. He told me that several cabbies are putting “broken” signs on the readers as a result of this.

    The new dome, which costs $350 to install, according to this guy, will not pass DC inspection because nobody changed the rules requiring the 911 display present in the old ones, meaning they have to switch back and forth between the old and new to pass inspection.

    I never carry cash, so having credit card capability makes sense to me. But, as someone who used to own a small business, I can attest to the fact that credit card processing can be expensive – particularly if you don’t have much of a choice anymore as to what company to go with. Sure their service has sucked, and many failed to voluntarily upgrade their services over time – so all of this at once has to hurt. I actually feel for some of them. What is convenient for all of us does come at a price.

    • I understand everything you are saying in this post. I also understand that drivers should be paid a living wage. I, as a customer, am even willing to pay the costs to subsidize the payment method that I choose should my convenience come at the expense of the driver’s income. It is completely reasonable to bear that cost.

      But, this discussion needs to be put in context. This is not an issue of convenience alone. It is an issue of operating in a modern economy in the nation’s capital. All other major US cities have credit card payment as an option. All of the negatives you mentioned are easily fixed, and the customer base should not have to get caught in the whiplash of the Commission’s incompetence and drivers’ refusal to meet the demands of riders.

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