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UPDATED: DC Taxis Could Begin Setting Their Own Fares

Proposed regulations could help traditional cabs compete with UberX and Sidecar.

Photograph by Flickr user BeyondDC.


The District’s cabs could begin setting their own rates, under new regulations the DC Taxicab Commission will propose this week in response to the growing popularity of ride-sharing services like UberX, Sidecar, and Lyft that enable people to turn their cars into vehicles-for-hire without going through the normal taxi industry channels.

Under the proposed regulations, first reported by WAMU, cabbies would be able to charge fares different from the city-imposed meter rates of a $3.25 base plus $2.16 per mile for passengers who book rides online or through a smartphone app. Since the ride-sharing companies showed up, taxi drivers have grumbled that they introduce unregulated competition into the market.

“The intent is to try to level the competitive playing field,” says Taxicab Commission spokesman Neville Waters.

If the regulations are approved, DC’s taxi drivers could sign up with one of five companies approved to charge non-metered fares based on time and distance: Hailo, MyTaxi, Royal1 powered by Taxi Radar, Taxi Magic, and Yellow Cab. Of those, only Yellow Cab manages an actual taxi fleet, while the rest are software companies that market applications to connect drivers with passengers.

The regulations would also empower cabbies to engage in “surge pricing,” the term Uber uses to describe its multiplied rates during periods of high demand, such as weekend evenings or snowstorms.

The proposals will be introduced at the Taxicab Commission’s meeting on Wednesday, but they might not be an immediate hit with drivers. “I’m not sure the taxi industry is necessarily going to embrace it,” Waters says.

Only rides booked through digital dispatching services would be affected. Taxis hailed on the street would still use the regular metered rates. About 17 million of an estimated 20 million annual livery rides are waved down on the street, Waters says, but the smartphone apps’ shares of the market continue to grow.

UPDATE, 5:13 PM: DC Council members Mary Cheh and David Grosso introduced legislation on Monday afternoon to deregulate taxi fares on rides booked through digital dispatch apps. Rates would be set by the dispatching services, not drivers.

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  • Kate

    The only problem with Hailo, etc. is that they still rely on taxi drivers after you've booked through the software. The last time I tried, my taxi cancelled with no warning. twice. back-to-back. After waiting a total of 20 minutes, I finally deleted the app and went back to Uber. I also work in hospitality and it's embarrassing to tell our out-of-town travelers, "Sorry, don't bother calling. Sometimes you just can't get a taxi when it rains." I hope the whole industry is put out of business by Uber and new competition is started from scratch to mimic their success.

  • Courtney

    ...they pretty much already set their own fares by adding ridiculous extra charges that make no sense

  • alpinepaq

    Well, they certainly are learning the wrong lessons from this whole "being out-innovated" thing, aren't they? How about: focus on delivering a superb customer experience, not being a vehicle for maximizing job security for drivers. If you do the first, you'll do a far better job at the second.

  • Rather than they could increase taxi fare, taxi cab commission should involve this and want to set-up fare for hassle free ride. Seems using taxi dispatch system could help to avoid surge price for rides during peak time.

  • Emily

    The fare has nothing to do with why people are using these apps. It's because DC cab drivers are rude and never want to let you pay in credit card. I'd rather pay more for a pleasant, hassle free ride.

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