WASHINGTON - Taking a taxi in the Nation's capital is about to get more expensive, but it will also be safer and more convenient.
Starting as soon as September, cabs in the city will likely be charging an additional 50 cents per ride. The new fee was proposed by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and is expected to be approved by the D.C. Council next week. The money from the new surcharge will help pay for new smart meters as well as funding the D.C. Taxi Cab Commission.
Gray says the surcharge will save city taxpayers about $2 million a year and help improve what many see as an antiquated taxi system.
"It's another major step forward to bringing our taxi cab industry into the 21st century," Gray says.
The biggest change the new meters will bring for passengers is the ability to pay by credit card. Neither the passenger or the driver will pay any fees associated with using credit cards, but drivers will have to pay up to $500 to have the new meter systems installed in their cabs.
Along with payment options, the smart meters will feature an emergency button for both the driver and the passenger if they feel unsafe. When the driver presses the button it sends a call to D.C. Police, if a passenger presses the button, a taxi inspector is notified.
The meters will also have TV monitors for passengers playing local news and weather, as well as other content produced by NBC. Passengers will have the option to turn off the TVs which will also play commercials as well as a 20 second public service announcement at the beginning of each trip. The PSA will be produced by the District government.
Another feature of the new smart meters is GPS tracking. Ron Linton, Chairman of the DC Taxi Cab Commission says the tracking mechanism will only be used when a passenger is in the cab.
"We won't be tracking the cab when it's off duty or cruising for fares," Linton says.
Gray says another benefit of the GPS is tracking where the cabs go and don't go.
"It will give us a lot of data, people complain frequently that cabs don't go to certain areas of the city, this will give us better information." he says.
In addition to the new smart meters, new regulations awaiting final council approval would require cabs older than 7 years to be taken out of service, a uniform color for all cabs and more handicapped accessible vehicles.
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