Proposal Would Put Smart Meters In D.C. Cabs By End Of Year

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(photo by Mylon Medley)

(Patrick Madden -- Washington, D.C. -- WAMU) D.C. says it hopes to have credit card machines in its taxicabs by the end of the year.

Mayor Vincent Gray says the city is preparing to ink a $35 million deal with Verifone Systems to install new smart meters in all licensed D.C. cabs. The devices will have credit card machines, panic buttons, GPS technology, and video screens that will play a short PSA and feature content for passengers from NBC.

It's part of a major overhaul to modernize the District's fleet of taxis. To pay for the deal, the city will add a 50-cent surcharge for all cab rides.

"We are going to move on it very quickly and we think this is going to a real, major difference for this city," says taxicab commissioner Ron Linton.

The announcement comes ahead of next week's second and final vote on legislation that promises to modernize the taxi cab industry. Council Member Mary Cheh crafted the proposal, which was approved by a wide margin during the first vote. It not only requires smart meters, but pledges to have more handicapped accessible cabs and a uniform color of all taxis in D.C.

"At the end of the day, we will be able to have something that lets us steer a course that modernize this industry, is fair to drivers, and have something that we can be proud of," says Cheh.

Some taxicab owners have protested the legislation, because of the costs associated with installing the new meters. Linton says the meters will cost each driver approximately $300.