- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — An attempt by taxi drivers to preserve the District of Columbia’s idiosyncratic system for calculating fares failed today when a judge upheld the mayor’s order for all taxis to be equipped with meters.

A lawyer for the drivers said they would appeal, but the city plans to forge ahead with its May 1 deadline for meters to be installed.

Taxi fares in D.C. are currently based on geographic zones. Critics of the system — unique among major cities — say it’s confusing, particularly to out-of-town visitors.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced in October that he would go along with a provision passed by Congress to abolish zones and require meters. The provision gave Fenty the option to opt out of the switch, but forced him to make a choice one way or the other.

Taxi drivers opposed to the change argued in a lawsuit that Fenty had no right to require the change over the authority of a taxicab commission that sets rules and fares. District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Brook Hedge rejected that claim.

“Congress required the Mayor to make an affirmative decision to implement a meter system or not …” Hedge said. “If the Mayor’s decision was not to opt out, then he had the responsibility to ensure that the law be executed, which meant implementing a meter system for taxicabs.”

Many taxi drivers had been waiting for the court’s decision before paying the estimated $350 to have a meter installed.

The new taxi rules are still set to go into effect May 1, Fenty spokeswoman Carrie Brooks said today. The mayor planned an announcement tomorrow to explain the steps necessary to implement the change. City officials have said drivers who have not installed meters by the deadline will face a $1,000 fine every time they’re caught picking up riders without meters.

Jeffrey O’Toole, an attorney representing the drivers’ coalition that sued, said the deadline should be postponed pending the appeal.

“The meters cannot possibly be installed by May 1,” he said.

Drivers have resisted the switch to meters for fear they will lose business under the system, which they believe will make long rides more expensive. Many also worry that meters will make it easier for big companies to dominate the business, forcing out many independent operators.

Drivers have held several strikes since the change was announced in October.

William Wright, president of the Taxicab Industry Group, which helped organize the strikes, said drivers are still hopeful the D.C. Council will step in with legislation calling for zone-based meters rather than the time-and-distance meters chosen by Fenty. Zone-based meters would be similar to the current system, but the fares would be calculated by a machine using a GPS system and would be documented with a receipt.

Wright said many riders won’t be able to afford to take taxis under Fenty’s plan.

“We are trying to protect the public as well as ourselves,” he said. “This issue has brought cabdrivers together like nothing I’ve ever seen because they know they’re going to be put out of business.”

The rates for the meter include a $3 base fee and 25 cents for every one-sixth of a mile traveled after the first sixth of a mile. There also will be a 25-cent charge for every minute spent stopped or traveling less than 10 miles per hour. The maximum fare for all trips within the city will be $19.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide