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Teamsters and Taxi Drivers Sue DC Over Credit Card Readers and Rooftop Lights

Cab drivers want even more time to come into compliance with modernization requirements.

A week after DC taxicab drivers voted to let the Teamsters represent them, the union and the hacks are suing the DC Taxicab Commission in an attempt to stop the city from enforcing year-old regulations requiring cabs to modernize.

The suit, filed late Tuesday in DC Superior Court, comes after a weekend during which the commission began ticketing and towing taxis that have not complied with the rules mandating they have approved credit-card readers and new rooftop “dome” lights.

Drivers have been complaining for weeks that the new lamps, intended to make cabs more visible to potential customers, are expensive and troublesome to operate. In the suit, the Teamsters-drivers group says there is now a long waiting list to get the lights installed, putting drivers who haven’t yet made the upgrade in a regulatory squeeze.

As a result, Teamsters spokeswoman Leigh Strope says, many cabbies are refusing to drive. The lawsuit, which follows on a letter sent Monday to Mayor Vince Gray, seeks to halt enforcement, set subsidies for the cost of installing the new dome lights and credit-card meters, and add another driver to the Taxicab Commission, which includes two drivers among its nine members.

Gray’s spokesman Pedro Ribeiro brushes off the lawsuit as another foot-dragging tactic on the drivers’ part.

“For the past few years the drivers have been their own worst enemy,” he says. “We barely have a third-world taxicab system in this city.”

Another common complaint by drivers recently is that several of the vendors approved by the commission to supply credit-card readers have been negligent in making payments. The city signed a contract in July 2012 to Verifone for a uniform brand of credit card device in every cab, but a judge threw out the contract after drivers complained that they were prevented from choosing their vendor.

“[Drivers] recognize the need to accommodate their customers,” Strope says. But after years of contract arguments and offering multiple extensions to drivers for coming into compliance with regulations, city officials are intent on forcing cabs into modernity.

“Reform has moved without them because they have refused to reform,” Ribeiro says.


  • Steve C. Hickman

    Cab customers, do remember that with all credit card tranactions that there are fees charged back to the the driver and any merchant. Cabs work on a very small margin. If you simply ask them what they are being charged and agree to add that to the fare, i bet most drivers would have no reticince about taking a credit card. Try it.

  • Bob

    S John I don't know how often you take cab in dc. I am regular user not only dc in other cities such as Boston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and many cities including Europe. if you ask me to give grade dc cabbies are the best and the cheapest cab ride I ever seen. when I pick a taxi from airport or union station in dc I tell the guy I need credit card and he gets me one. most of them use square or similar companies. when I need card cab I do not care as long as they take card. recently I got dropped off because the new machine doesn't function right. I think the city controlled the business because the commissioner takes money out of each fares. I don't like to much regulations or government control in private business because the result will be kills drivers moral, and probably poor customer service.

  • Bob

    why not taxi drivers chose their own credit card providers such as square or intuit or similar to that I think the mayor and taxi commissioner went far more involving their own interest here.

  • S John

    Bob, it's because the drivers will just lie. They don't want to take credit cards, bathe or get modern vehicles. The drivers in D.C. are worse than most anywhere in the world. That's why I call Blue Top to take me to Arlington.

  • maggirl

    I've had two taxi drivers who have said their credit card machines are "broken" - yeah right likely story. Customers want to pay with a card... get over it and just accept the cards.

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