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DC Taxi Drivers Protest Deadline for Credit Cards in Cabs
Starting next week, any cab operating without a credit card reader is subject to being towed and impounded. By Benjamin Freed
Comments () | Published September 25, 2013
With less than a week to go until the deadline for all 7,000 taxicabs in DC to have credit-card readers installed, about 200 drivers are protesting on Pennsylvania Ave., NW across the street from the District government building saying they need more time.

Since June, when new regulations went into effect mandating that all taxis take non-cash forms of payment, taxi drivers have been replacing their outdated meters with new models that can accept credit cards and charges from digital services like Hailo and Uber. But though the DC Taxicab Commission approved 10 companies to install the new payment systems, the rollout has been achingly slow. The original Aug. 31 deadline was kicked back a month, but come Tuesday the commission still expects about 2,000 cabs to not have the credit card devices.

After Sept. 30, the commission says, it will impound any taxi its inspectors find operating without one of the new meters and credit card systems.

Gathering on Freedom Plaza, where they chanted and hoisted signs toward John A. Wilson Building, the cabbies complained of expensive installation charges—sometimes as high as $1,400—and confusing operating contracts with the companies, which the Taxicab Commission refers to as payment service providers, that offer the credit card readers.

“Don’t act like we are slaves,” one of the chants goes.

One driver, Dagne Desta, says he was set to have his credit card reader installed last week. But he says the company he arranged to set it up, Gleikie, canceled his appointment and sent him new terms asking for more money. A document Desta brought to the protest reads that the credit card transaction fee is being increased from 3.5 percent to 7.8 percent, and also suggests a 5 percent cut of cash transactions. But Desta's most immediate concern is that his installation appointment has been rescheduled for Oct. 20, nearly three weeks past the deadline.

"The [payment service providers] are not capable," says Desta. He adds that if he cannot drive his cab without a credit card reader for fear of being towed and impounded, he stands to lose between $150 and $200 a day.

But the Taxicab Commission is not moved by the cabbies' pleas. "If you see a suit on sale and two days later it's been sold, do you sue Bloomingdale's because they sold it?" Neville Waters, the commission's spokesman, says.

The commission reports that through last week, slightly more than half of DC's cab fleet has been outfitted with new meters and credit card readers, and Waters says another 1,500 will be done by the end of the month. That's progress, but it still leaves more than one-quarter of the fleet without the upgrade.

The commission won't be offering any more extensions either. "They've had 120 days," Waters says. "This is something the public demanded."

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  • Todd Rich

    This new saddens me. Not everyone can afford those plastic cards and they would want to force it on them? that's an unjust option for those whose income aren't that regular.

    Richmond VA Taxi Services

  • thecomiss

    BS stop your crying, you all suck in the service you provide and you have know about htis and fought it long enough. I hope it puts half of you out of business for the crap service, awful cars, smelly ones to boot along with the terrible sense of direction you all have! Get with it or get out of DC!

  • david

    Hater. You are sick.

  • John E De Freitas, Alex.VA

    This situation could have been avoided if the Commissioner allowed taxi drivers to go on the Internet and find providers to install credit card readers. Instead, the Commissioner decided to use six companies(maybe his friends) to install the credit card readers Rather than the Commissioner pressuring the companies for not installing the credit card readers as promised he places the blame on the taxi drivers.The drivers are not to be blamed if the installers decide they donot have sufficient time, man power and equiptment to do the job. As October 1 comes those companies have increased their prices by a few hundred percent to further milk money from poor taxi drivers My opinion is there is more to just installing credit card readers in taxi cabs, something smells really bad and it points to the Commisioner's office.
    John E De Freitas
    Alexandria, VA

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Posted at 02:11 PM/ET, 09/25/2013 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Blogs