One of the biggest gripes about D.C.'s taxicabs is that so few of them accept credit cards -- but that could be about to change.
The D.C. Council passed regulations last spring requiring all cabs to have credit card machines, but since then the changeover has been mired in red tape: the city is still trying to settle a dispute among contractors who bid on the $35 million contract to install new credit card readers in the city's cabs.
Meanwhile, a new app launching in D.C. allows customers to order a ride on a smartphone — much like the smartphone-based Uber service, which has caused some consternation among the city's cab drivers. myTaxi's GPS will locate the nearest taxi and send the driver a notification on his smartphone, and the driver has five seconds to accept. Payment is made at the end of the trip using the passenger's previously approved credit card.
"We support Visa and Mastercard, or if you are with PayPal you can also store your PayPal account," says Lina Wuller, spokesperson for the Germany-based company. She notes that the GPS feature of that app means that a person doesn't need to have an exact address to order a taxi — which is the case with Uber.
Passengers can begin downloading the app today, but it's still unclear how many taxis are actually participating. Wuller declines to disclose how many taxi drivers have signed up, but she says one of them is taxi driver Masood Medgalchi.
Medgalchi is also active in the D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers Association, which opposes the Taxicab Commission's proposed reforms, including the plan to install the credit card machines.
"We were trying to be proactive about what the government of the District wanted us to do without having the government impose on us," he says.
Medgalchi's group calls the credit card system the district is attempting to push into taxis "antiquated." It's also on hold until the District clears up a dispute over what company should install the card readers.