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After numerous delays, D.C. cabs were supposed to have credit card readers installed by Aug. 31. But this was the District, and if the fleet of 6,000-plus vehicles were required to enter the 21st century, they weren’t going modern without a fight.
By mid-August, more than half of the city’s cabs were still only accepting cash. The D.C. Taxicab Commission granted a 30-day extension, but the numbers weren’t much prettier in mid-September. As the deadline loomed, the drivers protested the messy installation process, saying there were huge waitlists to get one of the eight commission-approved payment service providers to install the machines. Many of the drivers that did have machines said theirs were malfunctioning, with some providers not actually paying the drivers for fares rendered using a credit card. But the commission didn’t waver this time, and since the Oct. 1 deadline, it’s impounded 30 cabs found without a reader.
The process to install mandated new dome lights on cab roofs didn’t go much smoother. Drivers waited until the last minute to purchase the new lights, and by that point, prices had skyrocketed from about $150 to more than $500. Drivers once again tried to fight the November deadline (some even filed a longshot lawsuit) and joined up with the area Teamsters to form a quasi-union with the hopes of getting a unified voice to lobby on their behalf. More than 1,000 cab drivers showed up for the first Teamster-cabbie alliance meeting.
The new regulations took effect anyway. But could the new alliance help drivers in the long run? Well, in the first D.C. Taxicab Commission meeting after the Teamsters came on board, Taxicab Commission Chair Ron Linton adjourned the session before it was over because things got too rowdy.