Friday, November 2, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said yesterday that city cabs will be required to have time-and-distance meters installed by April 1, meaning that the District’s 70-year-old zone-fare system will be phased out in roughly five months.

“The research we have conducted shows that this is the most reliable system,” Mr. Fenty said at a press conference to announce regulations governing the implementation of the meters and their accompanying fare system.

The mayor’s proposed regulations outline specifications for installing and inspecting meters, as well as the rates drivers will be able to charge.

The base charge for a cab ride under the new system will be $4, and 25 cents will be charged for every one-sixth of a mile after the first sixth of a mile traveled.

Fares inside the District will be capped at $18.90, but additional fees for extra baggage or traffic jams can be applied over the cap, D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Leon Swain said. For every minute stopped in traffic or traveled less than 10 mph, riders will be charged 25 cents.

Mr. Swain, in response to some cabdrivers’ concerns about the fare system switch, said the $4 base charge is the highest in the nation.

He said the most expensive meter can be purchased for $325. Independent cabdrivers will be responsible for buying them, Mr. Swain said.

“What we tried to do is we tried to get the latest information and most in-depth information” to develop the regulations, Mr. Swain said.

The regulations will be subject to a 30-day public comment period and a 60-day review by the D.C. Council.

Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, said he would hold any “necessary and appropriate” public hearing on the proposed rules.

“I think we are agreed that there does need to be a full discussion of what we have before us,” Mr. Graham said.

The mayor announced the April 1 deadline one day after some drivers waged a 24-hour strike to protest the switch to meters.

Yesterday, a crowd of cabdrivers, many still angry about the new fare system, spilled into the streets at Mr. Fenty’s press conference at 16th Street and New Hampshire Avenue in Northwest.

The mayor said he based his decision in part on poll results showing a majority of cabdrivers supported a switch to meters. He was met with a chorus of loud objections from the crowd.

“We fight for our business,” cabdriver Yohannes Maru said. “A giant company will take over our business. … You’ve got everybody independent right now.”

Mr. Fenty, who shook hands with the cabdrivers and discussed their concerns, said the regulations could change before they are implemented.

“Don’t forget that I stand here as an elected official …,” Mr. Fenty said. “I will be the first person to admit this was not a unanimous decision.”

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