12/19/2011 06:05 pm ET

D.C. Taxi Reform: Mayor Vincent Gray, Councilmember Mary Cheh Release Modernization Legislation

WASHINGTON -- District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) unveiled taxicab-modernization legislation on Monday afternoon that would mandate credit and debit card readers, improve safety standards and, according to their announcement, "create a more robust regulatory structure for taxicabs."

The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis breaks down the legislation and points out something to watch:

Expect a lot of attention on this provision: "The District of Columbia Taxicab Commission is authorized to establish a public vehicle-for-hire licensing quota which provides that the number of new taxicab vehicle licenses may be limited, after making a determination that the market is saturated with taxi vehicles and would benefit from a stabilization or reduction of new vehicles." It's not a medallion system exactly, but it's close. The bill would also allow the commission to set a driver quota.

Additionally, the legislation would mandate digitized records, which DeBonis notes, is something that could get some "big time pushback from the cab industry ... [I]t means real financial accountability for the first time."

The mayor could also make a decision on whether to mandate a uniform color for cabs. But all these improvements would necessitate a surcharge.

What else is on tap for the year-long phased-in moderization? According to the announcement released by the mayor's office:
The legislation creates a "Public Vehicle for Hire Consumer Service Fund," which will be supported by a small surcharge and will be used to:
  • Add new fuel-efficient/“green” vehicles to the District’s taxi fleet;...
  • Fund a high-tech meter system with a safety feature that has the ability to communicate directly with the Metropolitan Police Department in emergencies;
  • Create a voucher program for senior-citizen and low-income riders;
  • Establish a professional driver-education program;
  • Facilitate better investigation and enforcement actions for complaints about service or driver behavior as well as illegal taxis; and
  • Make the Taxicab Commission a self-supporting agency.

"We've come together to move the District's taxicab industry into the 21st century by crafting what I believe is a common-sense approach to improving the quality of the taxi experience in our city," Gray said in his announcement. "What we have here is a total, top-to-bottom transformation and improvement of our taxicab system. This legislation will give consumers the quality and service they demand while also protecting the livelihoods of the drivers who provide the service."


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