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If the DC Taxicab Commission can’t regulate Uber as much as it wants to, maybe it can just compete with it.
Today the commission will propose for the District’s entire fleet of nearly 7,000 cabs to be equipped with the “One City One Taxi” app—-an app that would allow people to e-hail cabs like they do with services like Uber and Lyft.
Private apps like Hailo already allow people to hail cabs on their phone for a small fee. But this app would be city-run, and commission chair Ron Linton wants to require all cabs to have it. The app, says Linton, would be donated to the commission and would be free for cabs to get. Customers would be able to pay using a credit card that’s on file. Cabs could still use other outside e-hailing services.
“Part of the statutory responsibility of the Commission is to ensure the economic feasibility of the public vehicle for hire industry,” Linton said in a press release. “Thus we believe it is imperative to allow the industry to be able to compete fairly. It is also up to the industry to take responsibility for their business to provide high quality customer service.”
This is similar to a universal cab-hailing smartphone application that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed last month.
Linton’s proposal comes a week after the D.C. Council introduced legislation that would regulate and ultimately legalize UberX in the city. Cab drivers aren’t happy with the proposals and are protesting them this morning.
At today’s cab commission meeting, Linton is also proposing a van service that would serve areas in D.C. that are underserved by the cab industry. As previously reported, the proposed van service—-which would largely, but not exclusively, operate in east-of-the-river-neighborhoods—-would take people anywhere from two to 20 blocks for a fixed rate of $5 or $6, with specific boundaries dictating where they could operate.The idea is that these vans would be used to take people—multiple people at once—to the nearby grocery store or a friend’s house in places where it’s nearly impossible to hail a cab.
Linton also wants to create a benefits package for longtime cab drivers that would provide them with healthcare, disability, and retirement benefits.
The Post reports that the drivers, the companies they work for, and the city would contribute to this benefits package, which would only kick in after 20, 30, or 40 years of service. The city’s contribution would likely come from the 25-cent surcharge passengers pay each ride.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery