The Council of the District of Columbia
The Office of Councilmember Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 19, 2011
Communications Director: Kiara Pesante o: 202-724-8089 c: 202-701-9439
Councilmember Cheh’s Remarks on the Modernization of D.C. Taxis
Cheh joined Mayor Gray, Councilmember Wells for Unveiling of Taxi Legislation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Councilmember Mary M. Cheh, Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation, made the following statement announcing a joint legislative effort with Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Councilmember Tommy Wells regarding the modernization of taxicabs in the District:
“The taxi industry is not something that stands apart. It is, and must be seen as first, independent of the District’s overall transportation network and second, as integral and vital to our robust tourist and hospitality industry.
“Taxis provide transportation to thousands of residents and visitors every day. Taxis and our taxi drivers are our public face to millions of visitors every year. They are our ambassadors and often the first impression people have of our city and its services. Many representatives from the District’s hospitality industry, who have joined us today, have particularly called upon us to ensure a professional and marketable service befitting of the city we live in.
“We want that service to be courteous, informed, efficient, reliable, honest, and safe. We want our drivers to be able to earn a proper income and have pride and fulfillment in their work. Both of these goals will be served by the legislation we are talking about today.
“Today, with the support of the Mayor and the Executive Director of the Taxi Commission Ron Linton, I am here to unveil a legislative proposal to modernize and reform taxi service in the District: the “District of Columbia Taxicab Commission Service Improvement Act of 2011.”
“Under the bill, which will be introduced tomorrow, are several important service improvements that have been developed in coordination with the Mayor’s office and the D.C. Taxicab Commission. Let me speak to just a few of the important features of this bill. Within one year, and we expect sooner, all taxis will have:
· Credit card readers with printable receipts to allow prompt and efficient payment for services;
· A GPS device to ensure that drivers are capable of locating the proper destination;
· Uniform cruising lights that identify on/off duty and with/without passenger;
· A uniform color scheme, which allows company insignia, like so many other jurisdictions around the country. Taxis should have a uniform color so that the riding public, especially those 17 million visitors to the District each year, have an easily accessible and clearly identifiable service;
· New meters to provide passengers with trip information on their receipt. Having an electronic manifest to the Commission in real-time allows for accurate reporting fares and earnings. Having the capacity to digitally provide all trip information (in real time) is an important step for customers, drivers, and regulator; and
· Security alert buttons accessible by both driver and passenger.
Other improvements forthcoming from this legislation include requiring the Commission to:
· Create a point system to monitor compliance with rules. If taxis and drivers accrue too many violations, the individual will have their taxi license suspended or revoked;
· Develop a well-trained fleet of hack inspectors to monitor driver activity and cab conditions;
· Increase the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles within a particular company’s fleet to at least 10 percent within four years; and
· Develop programs to increase service in historically under-served areas of the city.
“To cover these additional costs, this bill would authorize the Commission to impose a surcharge on taxi rides not to exceed 50 cents. The money raised would be deposited into a vested fund that would be used to for the Commission’s operating expenses and to cover the costs of new equipment for cabs. The Commission, after a public hearing, would determine the appropriate amount of the surcharge.
“Structurally, we will stay with the Taxicab Commission as the entity to regulate and oversee the industry, but there will be changes to improve its performance and effectiveness. The Mayor and Mr. Linton will discuss these changes.
“My original proposal, on which I worked closely with Councilmember Wells, was to make major changes in structure – to put regulation in a special division of DDOT, and rates back into the PSC. But the Mayor believes that we have our best shot at reform now with the Commission under Mr. Linton – and I agree.
“We should not get bogged down in bureaucratic turmoil by spending more time moving filing cabinets than fixing what needs fixing promptly. However, my Committee will remain alert as to whether progress is actually made and will revisit the larger structural changes as needed.
“I want to acknowledge that this bill is not the sum total of the reform process. Commissioner Linton has already undertaken important reforms within the Commission to improve administration and organization of taxi operations and must continue to collaborate with the Commission members and staff and the Office of Taxicabs to ensure reform.
“Again, I want to thank the Mayor for his continued commitment to improving this important public transportation network, my colleague Councilmember Wells for his hard work on this bill, and Commissioner Linton for his willingness to work collaboratively to address these important public concerns.”