The D.C. Taxicab fleet may soon find itself short on vehicles as the Sept. 30 deadline to equip all D.C. taxicabs with credit card readers approaches.
As many as 2,000 of the District’s 6,500 registered taxicabs will be impounded if they cannot install credit card machines by the deadline, which has been postponed from Aug. 30. Only 2,000 cabs complied by the original date, and no further extensions will be offered.
The remaining cabs had to apply for an extension by Aug. 15, which involved providing a signed contract between the vehicle owner and one of the 10 official payment service providers in the District. In addition, the owner had to certify that he or she had scheduled an installation with the PSP in the imminent future, D.C. Taxicab Commission spokesperson Neville Waters said.
The Modern Taximeter System — which includes driver verification and a GPS system, along with a credit card reader — was introduced by DCTC in response to customer demands for universal credit card acceptance in D.C. taxis.
Since August, DCTC has tracked the progress of taxis in meeting the new Sept. 30 deadline through weekly reports of installations from the PSPs. Waters said that current information suggests that between 1,000 and 2,000 cabs will not have installed the MTS by the end of the month, representing nearly one-third of the District’s taxi fleet.
Once taxicab owners miss this installation deadline, taxi inspectors will track down non-compliant cabs, which will be impounded and towed. These cabs will be released only in order to have the MTS installed, after which point they can be used for regular cab services.
Fourteen cabs were impounded and 65 were ticketed for violations of taxi code through a DCTC partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department in early September. Despite this success, however, Waters said the city would not form a special task force to find cabs without readers.
Nevertheless, Waters hopes that law enforcement agencies and D.C. residents will assist DCTC investigators in tracking down delinquent cabs. Waters encourages all customers to report cabs without electric payment machines after the Oct. 1 deadline.
Digital dispatch service Uber has been a vocal opponent of the MTS requirement since its inception. Uber claims that MTS is infeasible with its taxicabs — which are separate from its black car service — because of the incompatibility between most PSPs and current taxi hardware. Uber spokesperson Nairi Hourdajian pointed to the postponed deadline as further proof.
“Uber has long been a proponent of improving the consumer experience and that includes making payment seamless and hassle-free,” Hourdajian wrote in an email. “Innovation and technology should be used to ensure a more reliable, more efficient and seamless service for users. Unfortunately, the proposed DCTC requirements make the consumer experience more cumbersome, not less.”