Cabbies Must Sign Major Contracts in Coming Days

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Taxi-StandIn the coming days, an unknown number of D.C. cabbies will sign major contracts with Payment Service Providers (PSPs), as required by the taxi commission.

While PSPs have attorneys, most cabbies don’t and they may end up on the short end of these contracts, but that doesn’t appear to be a major concern of the commission’s. “I haven’t seen any of the contracts,” D.C. taxi chair Ron Linton told TheFightBack. “We’re letting them decide. They’re going to have to deal with those issues.” 

“I’m so confused with everything that’s going on right now,” said Stanley Tapscott, a driver representative on the D.C. Taxicab Commission. The rulemakings for the Modern Taximeter System (MTS) have “been written four, five, six times and it’s changed many, many times.”

“[If] you sign this contract, what happens if you get sick and can’t work for two or three weeks? You still got to pay for this equipment,” said Tapscott, who is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal for his service during World War II.

The MTS includes a credit card reader, screen that can play PSAs and advertisements, and GPS tracking, although due to driver protests the data the commission receives on cabbies’ whereabouts will be encrypted and not in real time.

Linton says he doesn’t know how many cab owners have signed contracts with the seven commission-approved PSPs. To date, Linton says only 1,000 or so of the District’s more than 6,500 cabs have had the MTS installed, a figure so low that the commission approved emergency legislation last week to provide some but not all cabs with a limited extension from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30.

Linton blames the delay partly on PSPs, which provide the MTS equipment, but mainly on cabbies. “They’re not keeping their appointments for installations. They’re not responding. They’re not paying attention,” Linton told WAMU.

But for cabbies who pay close attention, they recall Linton’s previous mandate. Last year, Linton required all District cabs install smart meters produced by Verifone. That $35 million contract was overturned by the Contract Appeals Board because of “pervasive improprieties” in the bidding process.

In order to get an extension for the current taxi meter mandate, companies and driver-owners must have signed a contract with a PSP by Aug. 15, and then the PSP, not the driver, must petition the commission for the extension. Linton said the commission will only grant the extension to PSPs that have certified that they’ll complete installation in all their cabs by Sept. 30.

Cabbies are being “urged to go and sign a contract,” said Mechal Chame, board member of The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers.

Linton said Sept. 1 the commission will begin impounding cabs without installed Modern Taximeter Systems or proof of a commission-approved extension.

“They don’t feel the pain,” said Chame. The commission, he said, is trying to “squeeze out the driver.”

* This post was edited slightly since its initial posting.

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